photo by Armosa Studios
Tara: Hey everyone, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. I’m Tara Gentile, your host, and together with CreativeLive, we explore the unique strategies that creative entrepreneurs use to take control of their lives, profit from their passions, and pursue what’s truly important to them.
Today, I’m talking with Lori Allen, the director of Great Escape Publishing, which publishes nearly 30 home study programs, including the Ultimate Travel Writers program for retirees who want to pursue making money from their travels. She’s worked with over 3000 budding travel writers and photographers to help them meet that goal. Lori and I talked about her intrapreneurial journey, including helping the direct response marketing company she works for take their snail mail efforts online. We also discussed the different types of offers Great Escape creates and why they create them, her process for creating compelling ads and copy, and the surprising thing she’s learned helping retirees acquire a new set of skills. Lori Allen, welcome to Profit. Power. Pursuit. Thank you so much for joining me.
Lori: Thank you for having me.
Tara: Absolutely. So I love your story, because it’s an intrapreneurial story, not a traditional entrepreneurial story. Can you tell us how Great Escape Publishing came to be?
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Lori: Sure. Yeah, it is a unique, it’s a unique business. So I took a job out of college from an ad that I answered on Monster.com, and it was for a small publishing company down in south Florida, and they were looking for a marketer, and I had done some marketing in college. Nothing real world, but you know, just the average college experience, and I knew that that’s what I wanted to be. I knew that someone, one of my mentors when I was growing up, told me that if I wanted to make the most money, and at the time, money was very important to me. It’s not as important now when I look back and reflect, but at the time, I thought I’m gonna be a millionaire, right, and that … their advice was if you want to make a lot of money, you need to put yourself in a position where you’re in charge of someone else’s money, you know, where you’re bringing in sales, because if you bring in money, they have to pay you more. You know, expenses are meant to be kept down, most jobs are expenses, and if you’re in marketing, however, you’re not an expense, you’re a profit-maker, and if you make profit for others, they’ll pay you well.
And so I knew I wanted to go into marketing, but I didn’t really know how or what, and I saw this ad on Monster.com, and it was for a company in south Florida, and south Florida has great weather all year round and a beautiful beach, and so I was like yeah, count me in, that will be the job for me. But when I got there, they were a direct marketing, a direct mail company. So at the time, they were mailing what we lovingly call junk mail, and I was like, ooh, you know, maybe that’s not really what I want to do for in my life is write and create junk mail. However, I did meet one of the consultants for that company who is an amazing man and still my mentor today, and he’s very charismatic, he’s very well-known in our industry, and in the interview, I just knew that I wanted to work for that guy. I wanted to ride his coattails for the rest of my life. Like I just wanted to just, you know, follow him around with a notebook and a pen and a paper and just write down everything he knows, and I … I think we see the world similarly, so I was really just attracted to that.
So anyway, I did take the job, and one of the first things that I got to do was to bring them online. So back then, everything was in the mail. We didn’t have eBooks. We didn’t even have a website at that time. You know, we were all using AOL and CompuServe email addresses, and so you know, it was my job to create a website and to figure out how … how we could get our, what was working in the mail to work online, and I think that put me in a really good position, because no one had ever done it before. There were no classes, there were no books, there were no, you know, workshops or events that you could go to. There weren’t even that many people to talk to even in our industry about it. Everybody was starting. Everybody was testing a million different things, and that just made it, well, it made it fun. It also made it very hard, because no one knew the right way. We were just throwing stuff at the wall to see what stuck. And so after about a couple years, it was kind of like that commercial that you’ve seen on TV, you know, years and years ago where the company puts up an ad on the internet and they’re waiting around their computer for their first order and then they get it and they all high-five, and then the second order comes in and they’re like woohoo, and then the third and then the tenth and then the fiftieth and then the hundredth and then the two-hundredth, and they’re like oh my gosh, and you just see them, like, sink, and just like how are we going to handle 200 orders? You know, like, this … it just kind of took off, and that’s kind of what happened to us. You know, we … when we went forward with our first real ad, our first real web ad, I think we got more orders overnight than we had in the whole year to that date.
Tara: Oh my word.
Lori: Yeah. So while exciting, it was also very stressful. You know, I was in my early 20s, and didn’t know a thing about web marketing, didn’t know a thing about marketing, didn’t know a thing about, you know, running a business or how things were fulfilled or printed or, you know, because back then, all of our products were printed, and so we basically had to restructure the entire company for where this was headed, and we grew very, very fast, and because of that, I gained a lot of knowledge very, very fast. So after about a year or two, you know, again, I didn’t think that I … I was in my 20s, I wanted to be a 20-year-old. I didn’t want to be a business owner and a person who restructures organizations and deals with shipping and printing and, you know, all of those things. I was just kind of forced into that role with the speed at which we grew, and so I wanted out, and they just … they couldn’t really let me go, because you know, I just knew too much, and they didn’t, we just weren’t capable of continuing the speed that we were going if I left. Like I didn’t have things written down. I didn’t … it was all in my head. You know, we had relationships that we built things on, and all of those relationships belonged to me in a way. So you know, they kept saying, “What do you want?” and I kept saying, “I want to be 20 and not running a business,” and that just, that answer didn’t fly with them, and finally, you know, like, “What do you want?” And I was like, you know what, I want to do this, but I want to do it for my own thing and in my own way, and they were just so great. They were … you know, I mean, and honestly, I had three years of proving myself, so it wasn’t like they just gave me the world. No, I had, you know, I had all this experience, and they knew that I had done it for them, so they were happy to let me start my own division of their company, and so that’s how it kind of started. I started for them, I got all this great experience, they mentored me, they coached me, they helped me, they gave me all the resources that I need, and then they let me start my own division. So it’s kind of an entrepreneurship, but with the backing of … with the backing of all my best mentors and bosses and coaches, so it’s really lucky and I owe them a lot and I’m very grateful.
Tara: Awesome. So tell us a little bit more specifically about what Great Escape Publishing is. What do you guys create? Who do you market to? What is the business that you now run within this bigger company?
Lori: Sure. So now, you know, the original idea was basically any kind of resource you would need to get paid to travel. So that would be, you know, back then, these things were unheard of. This idea of becoming a travel writer was unheard of. No one … everybody had a staff writer. There were no freelance travel writers, but there was a small niche market of publications who needed articles from freelancers. They didn’t … they were too small to have a staff person, or they were too widespread. International Living is a great example. Back then, 15, 16 years ago, they were publishing articles about retiring and living overseas in Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize, Panama, Costa Rica, but Americans weren’t really going to those places 15 to 16 years ago, but there was a small pocket of retirees who were, and realized that on a very small retirement income, $600-$700 a month, they could live like a king in these places, and so they didn’t want their staff writers to go and live in these places. You know, they’d have to have a ton of staff writers to do that. So instead, they wanted to train regular retirees, just everyday people who were not writers how to write for them, and they weren’t the only one. And there was this whole niche of small publications who needed travel writers, and they didn’t want to hire a staff writer. They wanted their writers to be all over the world and to come in with stories and that were unique and that weren’t in the pages of National Geographic or Conde Nast or Travel and Leisure.
So that’s kind of where we started, and with the travel writing program, How to Be a Travel Writer, and the people that found us, you know, in my mind, when I was in my 20s, I thought this is me. I want to be a travel writer, and there are other 20-year-olds like me who want to be travel writers, and I’m going to find them. It took me a few years to realize that the audience found me, I didn’t, you know, it isn’t the 20-somethings that … I mean, they do. They want to be travel writers, but it’s this retiree group, these people who have lived long careers and now they’re looking to do something else in retirement. Several of them are very well established in their careers. You know, they were nurses or doctors or realtors or carpenters or architects, and you know, they did that for 30 to 40 years, and then they got into retirement, and they’re like, “This is it? I’m just supposed to sit on a rocking chair and drink ice tea?” You know, like that’s just not … not how they saw their life going, and they’re healthy, and they’re ready to see the world, but not on a bus tour. You know, they don’t really want to be herded like cattle through the Eiffel Tower. They want to experience a place. So our market, we have all these get paid to travel programs, and retirees are our biggest audience. Again, that’s not how I saw it when I first started this division. I thought I was going after people more like myself, but yeah, they found me, and then now, today, I’d say that’s 80-90% of our audience is 50 and older. They’re either already retired or soon-to-be retired. They’re healthy, they want to see the world, they want to see the world in a unique way, and that’s what we give them. So on the surface, we’re a publishing company of all of these products, but underneath, we’re giving people a second life, and that comes with confidence and prestige and power and all the things that they had in their first life now in retirement.
Tara: Yeah, absolutely. That’s perfect. And I want to talk all about … I want to talk more about how you niched down into seniors and how all sorts of different things from what you just said, and I’m having a hard time deciding which question I want to ask next, but I think it would probably be helpful for everyone who’s listening to actually get a rundown on the types of products and in-person experiences that you guys offer, because it’s not all information marketing. You guys do some really unique things in terms of both online and offline live workshops, actual travel excursions. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Lori: Yeah, definitely. So you know, we have the home study course. There’s two … there’s two kinds of travelers, right? There’s the armchair traveler. There are people who like to read about going to all of these places, but maybe they know or maybe they don’t know that they’re actually never going to do it. Some of them do know. Some of them know they love to read, but that they’re never going to leave home. And then others think they will one day, but they don’t. And I think the same is true in publishing. There’s, you know, the people who will buy a home study program and want to read things in a book and they want everything printed out, and they have this, you know, what they’re buying is the dream. Right? They’re not buying a travel writing course. No. They’re buying a dream to become a traveler and to go all over the world and have people roll out the red carpet for them and to see the world in a unique way and to have their stories published in glossy magazines that they can frame on their wall and share at cocktail parties, and you know, when their friend says, “Oh, what are you doing this weekend?” “Well, I’m off to Paris, you know, and then it’s to Belize.” So there’s those who want the printed course and who are buying the dream.
And then there’s this whole other side of the business where people want, you know, they just learn more hands on. So they’re the ones who are going to come to a live event or join us online for a webinar. Sometimes, we’ll hire experts to take them through their personal process, because you know, it’s just like anything else. Like when you have a cook, one chef is going to prepare meals this way and another chef will prepare them this way. And one artist is going to paint this way and another artist is going to paint this way. Travel writing and photography are exactly the same thing. No two people do it alike. So we might hire an expert to walk them through their particular process. You know, what it looks like to go from never having owned a camera to this is my full-time living, and some people are outdoorsy and some people like to shoot, you know, items that don’t move on a white background, so everybody’s different. So we’ll have … so we have things for the people who like to stay at home, and we have things for the people who like to get out. We also have this small group of our audience who just use us as a travel club. I don’t think they have any interest in taking better pictures or writing about anything, but they had that interest at one time, and then just liked to travel this way. And so they’re just like, you know, I don’t feel like planning my vacations this year, I’m just going to go wherever you guys go, and that’s fine, too, you know. I enjoy traveling with those people. We don’t really, you know, we teach those things on the ground, but we don’t make, you know, make everybody do it.
Lori: That’s not, you know, it’s just supposed to be fun and it’s nice, because you go away on a vacation, but you also come home with a skill, and I think that … for the same price that you would pay for a normal vacation. It kind of runs the gamut in terms of products. It could go from anything from a live event to a recording of a live event to a home study program for the people who want to stay at home.
Tara: Cool. Can you give us sort of just the general breakdown between, you know, like the percentage of revenue that comes from more information products, either the recordings or like the programs that you do at home versus the in-person experiences and travel excursions?
Lori: Sure. I mean, I haven’t looked at those numbers like that specifically, but I think that it would be … Well, of course, the events are going to have a high gross, right?
Lori: Because we sometimes charge anywhere from, you know, $699 for a one-day event all the way up to, you know, this one coming up in Africa, some people are paying, you know, close to $7000 to come to Africa and, you know, for 12 days or 8 days, but the expenses on Africa and the expenses on the one-day event are so high, you know, you would typically not net, you know, we would love to net 20% from those events. I don’t know that we always do, and sometimes, we don’t expect the event to break even at all.
Lori: Because what will happen is we’ll bring a whole bunch of people there. The lower we make the price, the more people we fill in the room, right?
Lori: So you know, we could run a $699 event and get 200 or 300 people if we wanted to, but then we wouldn’t make any money on that at all. There would be no way that we could do it that cheaply, fill that many people, and feed them, and pay for rooms, and you know, speaking rooms and hire experts to come and talk. Like we wouldn’t make any money on that, but we would hope that while they were there, they would sign up for Africa, or they would sign up, you know, to join one of our clubs or organizations or buy some products. So it’s always a tricky thing with events. Like they can have a high gross, but not a very high net, but maybe you don’t need them to. Maybe you have backend stuff that you can get, you know, your money’s worth that way. So it’s hard to say exactly which of our products are the most profitable. You know, always, always, if you can sell an eproduct that’s like a course or audios or videos or something that you create one time and then you can reproduce it and sell it with different promotions and different ads and different experts, the more you can reproduce what you’ve already created, that’s where the money is, right? The money is not in events.
Lori: That is not a good business model. But events are what make people like you. You know, you have face-to-face interaction. This is how you build an audience. This is how you keep in touch with them. This is how you prove that you’re real. You know, some people … there’s a lot of scammy stuff online, and even, you know, with our marketing, we have to hit people pretty hard. Like nobody wakes up in the morning, especially a retiree. No retiree wakes up in the morning and says, “I want to be a travel writer today. I’m just going to go online and Google how to be a travel writer.” That doesn’t happen.
So like what we have to do is we have to assume that they’re on Facebook or they’re looking for something else, and then we have to be like, “Hey you, you right there. Yeah, you, you know, 50 years and older, come to me. Look at this. I’ve got this course on travel writing.” They’re like, “Yeah, right.” And I’m like, “Oh, yeah, you know, you can just travel around the world and people will pay you to write about the things you see and do,” and they’re like, “Whatever, you must be kidding me.” And then, you know, you have to like … and then, then they go and they look you up, and they’re like, oh, well, you know, this company, they’ve been to Africa, they’ve been to, you know, right now, they’re in Peru, and they’re in Vietnam, and look at all these other people that look just like me, and they’re out there having fun, and maybe I could do this after all.
You know, so events give you that, they give you an extra level of credibility and I think that’s super important today, because you know, us marketers have the struggle of, like, you know, how do you be not scammy? How do you be not in their face, you know, with bold promises, but at the same time, get them to react and act when they don’t, you know, they’re so bored, and they’ve seen so much, and you know, you really … you just have to … like when you’re writing, it’s a fine line between being in their face and actually reaching through the computer and grabbing them by the shirt and being like, “I’m telling you, this works. You know, you’re going to love your life after this.” And then you make them do something, and they’re so glad for it, but I do … but you have to be strong, and I know I’m kind of hitting on a bunch of different topics here, but I feel like the events for us give me that power. They give me the power to say, “Look, you know, I’m serious about this, and this can literally change your life. Look at all these thousands of people’s lives who we’ve changed. Look at this.” And they give me that power, but also, give me this, you know, to back up and say, “And I’m not kidding. These are real people. Look, you can find them on Facebook.” Like look, here are pictures of all of us, like I’m not making this up, and I think events give me that. It’s also where the majority of our success stories come from, because again, you know, coming back to the how people learn, there are some people who want things to be printed out, and they want, you know, to learn from a book, but so many people learn better on the ground.
You know, I have this little joke, I don’t think I’ve ever told you this, but maybe you’ve heard it before, but do you know the different between education and training?
Lori: Okay, well, then which one would you rather your kids have? Sex education or sex training? And you know, like that is kind of the difference between a book and coming to an event, right? Because a book is education. When you come to an event, you actually get to try it, and you get feedback, and that’s what training is, and when you get that … that ability to try and then you get feedback, it just propels you to a whole ‘nother level. But you can read a million books about how to play the guitar, but if you never pick up a guitar, you’re never going to learn how to play. And you know, everything else is just like that, too. I think people … some people do go through our home study programs and they go on to be travel writers, and that’s great, but most of them come from our live events.
Tara: Oh, I love that point so much, because I say I run a training company, not an education company.
Tara: And for that very same reason, is because our … everything that we offer is built around getting hands on with what you’re doing and getting feedback on it, whether it’s feedback in the form of, you know, you go off and do an experiment, and you see what the real feedback is, or whether you get feedback from me or one of our other trainers, you know, that’s super important to me. So I love that point. I also really love the point that, you know, that the experiences that you offer, the live events that you offer are as much about credibility as they are about either marketing or even just making revenue to begin with. Because I’m a huge fan of building products for marketing purposes, and getting people to pay for marketing, but I’ve never really thought about it as credibility building before, and I think absolutely, that’s huge.
Tara: That’s huge.
Lori: No, it’s so big. And then, you know, once people meet you face-to-face, then, you know, especially if you’re likeable, it might not work so much if you’re not so likeable, but you know, I think then you can talk to them differently.
Lori: It helps me, too, to write back. You know, the courses and the home study programs are the bread and butter, right? That’s where the biggest net comes from, that’s where, I mean, if we could just sell those all day, our job would be easy, but the events are fun, the events are where we actually get to meet people. They change the way that we market future things. You know, like, while we’re meeting people, we see that several of them all have the same problem. They all are struggling with this one thing. Well, then that gives us the next idea to build the next product or run the next event. Or several of them are all interested in this, you know, one thing that I didn’t even know they were interested. So you know, events give you that ability to just get to know your audience better. You just have to be careful, because the audience that is at the event is not necessarily the same audience that you’re writing to at home. You know, they’ve paid a lot more money, and they’ve taken a lot more action to get there. So they are a tiny bit different than the people who haven’t taken action, and who haven’t paid money, and haven’t paid that kind of money at home. So you do have to be a tiny bit careful.
Lori: But typically, they do give you a good eye into your audience.
Tara: Yeah. I want to ask you more about that in just a second, but I also want to make … I want to emphasize one other point that you made earlier, which is that in your market, as in so many markets for the people that are listening, people aren’t getting up one day and Googling how to be a travel writer, and you have to find kind of sideways paths into their attention to help them even see that this is a possibility and an opportunity.
Tara: And so for all of the, you know, all of the artists, the coaches, the wellness providers that are out there that are doing something innovative and different, you can’t rely on people coming to you for that thing. You need to, you know, find the other things that they’re interested.
Tara: That give you an in to talk about what you do.
Lori: Definitely. Definitely. And I do see this, you know, again to piggyback on that, I do see in marketing copy a lot, some people will play the other side. They’ll play the negative side. You know, “I can see why you wouldn’t want a coach.” You know, they’ll write that in their copy, but you might not want them because of this, this, this, and you know, when you do that, when you have to reach through someone’s computer and grab them and say, “Listen to me.” You know, like, “I’m the best thing for you,” you don’t have to play that negative side. They’re playing that for you already.
Lori: You don’t have to worry about that. Like, but I do see that a lot in coaching and, you know, other things, too. I do think that you have to keep in mind, you have to keep positive, and you have to keep in mind how much they’re really pulling back, and how much more you have to push if you want … because the truth is, like, nobody listening to this podcast is creating things that people don’t want, really?
Lori: You know, like, and if they did, like, eventually, they would find their way to what people do want. Like, we all want to help people. We all, if … if I showed up at one of my workshops and everybody told me that one of my programs was bad, I wouldn’t keep publishing it. Like, you know, we all want to do the best thing, and we all want to help people, so you really have to believe in that. Like you have to… and if it’s not, and you don’t believe in it, well, then you gotta stop. You just shouldn’t be pushing that thing. So anyway, I guess point is just, you know, keeping on the positive and really pulling hard. You gotta hit ’em harder than you think you would. These people are bored on the other side of your ads, and you gotta not only get them to wake up, you gotta get them to wake up, you gotta get them to listen to, and then you gotta get them to reach in their pocket and get out their wallet, and that takes … that’s a hard sell, you know?
Tara: Absolutely. So all right. I’m gonna … I’m throwing out where I thought I was going with this.
Tara: Because I want you to talk more about that, because I think this is going to be extremely helpful to people. We know people, like you said, are bored on the other side of our ads or our social media updates, or whether, you know, no matter what it is. I’d love that you said that to me the last time we talked, that you have to keep in mind that the reason people are scrolling through Facebook is not because they’re super engaged, it’s because they’re bored out of their minds.
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Lori: It’s they’re bored, mmhmm.
Tara: So can you walk us through your thought process for creating an ad or a campaign to, you know, to get the attention of someone who is bored and disengaged, but potentially interested in what you have to offer?
Lori: Right. Okay. So first things first, people are not bored on Facebook because they have nothing to do. They are bored because they have too much to do, in most cases, so they are … they have so much to do, and they have so much going on in their personal life that they have to tune out all of that stuff. They don’t want to be bothered by any of it. They don’t know where to start. So they go on Facebook. So this is the person that you’re talking to, right? Like he’s too much to do, a list a mile long, doesn’t know where to start, has, you know, they want to diet, they want to exercise, they want goal setting, they want someone to show them how to minimize their list, and they’re not doing any of those things, and instead, they’re on Facebook. You know, first and foremost, whenever you are writing ads, you have to test. Like I can tell you what works for us, and then you’ll go and try it and make it work for you, and it’s not gonna.
You know, like we have … I have this wonderful marketer working for me now. Her name is Lisa, and she comes to me with these questions: Which one of these things do you like better? And you know, we have this thing in my office, like, I have opinions, I have lots of them, if you ask me, I’m going to tell you my opinion, but if you don’t want it, don’t ask, because every time I … every time you ask, I’m going to give you something, and it might not be what you want to hear. So she comes to me with all these ads: Which ones of these do you like best? And I told her which one I liked, and there was one in particular that I strongly disliked, and I was like not that one, you know, these are the ones. So what did she do? She went back and tested the ones I liked and the one I strongly disliked. I love her. You know, in her mind, she said later, like, I … I put this one in here because you had such a strong reaction to it. I just thought, “What would happen?” She’s like, “I knew you would be mad, but that ad won.” And that was the one I didn’t want up there. So you know, that just goes to show, like, you know, and I’ve been doing this for a long time. This is my 16th year testing ads. Like not on Facebook, of course, but you know, around and about for different products and different ways and different affiliates and stuff, and so I have a pretty good sense, usually, for what will work and what won’t, and you know, I’m wrong. I’m wrong sometimes. I’m wrong all the time, in fact. So you just have to, you know, first and foremost, what works is what you test, and your audience says works. That’s what works.
But the big thing for me, and this is something that I’ve known all my career, but just was rebrought up. In fact, I think it’s been brought up three or four times, and it didn’t resonate with me the way it’s resonated with me in these last two years is this idea of direct and indirect. That if the audience does not know you, if they don’t know you and they don’t know your product, you have to be pretty indirect with your ads, and by that, I mean, you can tell a story. You can quote facts and figures. You can send them to an article first, instead of your promotion, but whatever it is, like you can’t, you know, you can’t run an ad that says 50% off of a travel-writing program. They don’t know what travel writing is. They don’t know who Great Escape Publishing is. They don’t know me, they don’t know, you know, they’re not going to pay 50% off. They’re not going to pay $10. They don’t know … they don’t know any of those things. So I think that’s the biggest mistake that I see a lot of people making. I see people who have businesses like potentially life coaches or you know … you know, if you’re going to have a party planning business or a, you know, catering business, or anything like that, if people don’t know you and they don’t know your product, you know, 50% off deals or price deals, anything like that isn’t going to work, you need to be much more indirect. And on the other side, if your audience does know you, then you need to be very direct. If I ran an ad for 50% off a travel writing program to everybody on our newsletter file who’s been following me weekly or daily for years, they’re going to jump on that like white on rice, right?
Lori: Because I can be super direct, super short, super to the point. I don’t need to tell them how great travel writing is, I don’t need to tell them how many places they can go in a single year, I don’t need to tell them stories about all of our members who have had success with this. They already know that stuff. They just want a cheap, good deal, and you can be very up front about that. So indirect, you can use stories, you can use articles, you can use, what was the other thing I said? Oh, facts and figures. And if you were going to make a direct offer, you can put a big bold promise up at the top, you could put money, an offer, you know 50% off or whatever, or you could put a problem/solution is kind of like where you put the problem and then a solution. You just have to be careful with that, because again, that kind of borderlines indirect, where they might know the problem, but they might not … they might not trust you to be the solution to that problem. So anyway, yeah, first, if I was going to talk about, or I was going to guide someone into a Facebook ad, you know, the very first thing, first and foremost, you gotta test. You gotta test a bunch of things. Bright, bold colors. Videos work, you know, little snippets of video works. Just taking text and turning it into a video works. You know, beautiful pictures work. You know, we test a few things. I can’t tell you that they did gangbusters, but calling people out based on what the emotions that we think that they have on Facebook. You know, “Are you bored at work? Wouldn’t you rather be in Paris or on this beach?” You know, because we know that’s what they’re already thinking. We tried that, and it did pretty well. You know, those kinds of things work, but will they work for you? You don’t know. You don’t know until you test. So you gotta test, you gotta test a ton of things. Throw a bunch of stuff at the wall, see what sticks, but do keep in mind this direct and indirect thing. You know, you can’t go out with a big, bold promise if nobody knows you and nobody knows your product, but you’re also leaving money on the table if you’re going after an audience who does know you, and then you’re hitting them very indirectly, you know, with a story lead or facts and figures and stuff that they already know, or stuff that, you know, they’re just too bored to read. You could just hit them over the head with a money offer, and you know, they’d be in your hands.
Tara: Yeah, that’s where I’ve realized that I’ve been going very, very wrong in recent years.
Lori: Everybody, right?
Lori: I do it, too. I look back, you know, like even just from six months ago, and I’ve been talking about direct and indirect for awhile now, and this is not a … this is not my secret. You know, this is something that direct mail people have known for years and years, and it’s been in our industry for a really, really long time. And like I said, it’s been brought up several times, but you hear different things every year, right?
Lori: And even, like I said, six months ago, I’m looking back at something that we ran, I’m like, oh, well, no wonder that didn’t work. Look at this. You know, like this could have been … this was for our VIP program that we have, we sent it only to our best buyers, and we didn’t come right out and tell them what we wanted them to do. Like instead, we led them down this long story about how nice it would be to be traveling with them in all these great places. We should have just come out and said, “Look, this week, you get $1000 off. Done.” And it would have worked. You know, that’s what worked in the past. So, you know, this direct/indirect thing is something that you have to practice. It’s something you have to keep in mind all the time with everything that you do. It’s not something that … that you’re just going to get, and then it’ll be with you forever. No, it takes practice.
Tara: Absolutely. Yes. I practice it every single day. How many concepts do you guys come up with when you’re preparing a new ad or a new sales page? Is there sort of like an average number that you shoot for?
Lori: Hmm. No. I mean, different things, I think Facebook probably only lets you test three at a time, right? I think. It’s been awhile, because we have one that’s up there now that’s doing so well, we can’t really test anything else, because they won’t let you test two things to the same audience. So we would either have to take down the one that’s working really well in order to test something else, and we’re not doing that.
Lori: So we’re just letting it ride. So you know, it’s been awhile since I’ve had my hands in the Facebook stuff, and you know, Google’s just changing the way that they are doing their AdWords now, so we’re … our Google stuff is not doing … wasn’t doing well, and now, we just have to rethink all that given their … the changes that they’re making. So yeah, it just depends. When we have … when we run ads to affiliates, like if we were to buy space in budget travel or something like that, you know, you would buy one and it would run in a month, and then, you know, you need to wait for those results before you bought another one. We’re testing now, and you can test two things, like one against something else, but the audience isn’t big enough. So that’s the other thing I think that marketers don’t realize is that testing requires lots of orders, right? Like if one ad brings in 16 orders and one ad brings in 14 orders, the 16 order ad did not win. Two people do not make that a statistically valid sample. That just means that, you know, test B went into the trash can more than test A. You know?
Lori: Like it doesn’t mean anything. Two people’s not a big enough sample size. So a lot of times, and especially in these smaller niche markets where you’re looking at small magazines and online websites, you just don’t have an audience big enough to test more than two things, one thing against another. So that makes it hard. That makes it hard. So we don’t usually have, like we have different, when I say we have a lot of irons in the fire, I’m talking about we have some things over on Facebook, some things working to our affiliate ads, some things working up over on Google, maybe we have some things in the mail, maybe we’ve, you know, split our list and we are offering a VIP membership to our multi-buyers, those are people who buy more than one program, while we’re advertising our main course, our travel-writing course or our photography course, to the people who have been on our file for awhile but have never actually bought anything from us. So you know, we may have like all of those things going on at once, all while one or two members of my staff are on location, you know, in Vietnam with a photography group, or in Palm Springs with 100 photographers, and then they’re trying to sell, you know, whatever backend things we have going on there. So we have lots of things going on, but probably, individually, at each one, we’re only trying one thing. Does that make sense?
Tara: Yeah, yeah. No, that makes complete sense. Yeah, thank you.
So you’ve mentioned your team a couple of times, and that’s one of the things that I always like to ask about. So can you give us sort of just a rundown on who makes up Great Escape Publishing at this point?
Lori: Sure. So we have nine. I think there’s nine of us. We have Cayson, who lives in South Florida. She is actually in the office of my parent company, and we do that so they that they can keep a finger on our pulse and we can keep a finger on their pulse and we share information. So she’s in south Florida and she answers our phones and our tickets or all of the emails that come in. She monitors our Facebook pages, she helps our attendees get registered for events, and you know, if they have questions about what to pack or can they extend their stay, and she’ll work directly with our experts to get them that information. And then I am here in Virginia right outside of DC and in Alexandria, and I work from home, and there are three other girls, CC, Alyssa, and Christina, who live in DC, and they commute here to my house twice a week. So we work together twice a week, which is where we get all of our creative stuff done, and our brainstorming, and we work through problems, and you know, do all of that. We also, because we work from home the rest of the time, we also chitchat a lot. We get the majority of our work done when we’re working from home. We get the majority of our chitchatting and talking done when we’re all working together. Jackie used to work here. She moved to Richmond, so she’s not too far away, and she takes the train in every once in awhile to join us, but she works from home in Richmond. Marade is in Ireland, so everything that we do with her is telecommuting, and she does our marketing. So all the promotions that we mail, she’s working with our writers to get them up and make any changes that need to be made, and she also schedules some ads with some of our bigger affiliates, and then Lisa is in Hagerstown, Maryland, and she does all of our Facebook and Google marketing, and Bonnie’s in Portland, Oregon, and she does a lot of our photography stuff. So Bonnie is also a professional photographer, she edits some of our programs, she creates some of our programs, she runs this one of our business, the Breakfast.Club, and so yeah, she just, any kind of time that we want to advertise a photography program or create a new one, Bonnie is the one that we go to for all of that.
Tara: Awesome. Thank you for that. So as we start to wrap up here, there’s one thing that we haven’t talked about that I really wanted to make sure that we got to, which is, you know, you mentioned that you are primarily marketing to seniors, retirees who are either interested in making a second career or at least pursuing this interest in travel writing and travel photography at a substantial level, and you and I have talked before about just how interesting it is to see these people grow and change from whatever their career was before, whatever their role in life was before, into this new role and this new identity. Can you talk a little bit about what you’ve learned watching that transformation happen?
Lori: Hmm. Well, I’ve learned that incredibly confident people become incredibly not confident when they switch, when they come out of what … You know, I think … and this is true for everybody, right? Like nobody likes to be a beginner. It’ll be interesting to see what happens to our generation when we become retirees, because we have our hands in so many different things, and we’re trying so many different things, but their generation, you know, picked a career and then stuck with it for a really long time, and so I think they just have a hard time putting themselves out there. They have a hard time letting them be beginners, letting themselves be beginners. They don’t want to be bad at anything, which I guess is true across all generations, but I see that as something that they’re struggle with. You know, I tell them often that I read somewhere that it takes 7 hours to make a Toyota and 7 days to make a Rolls Royce. And you know, I think they want to jump ahead to the Rolls Royce. They see our experts. They see these amazing photographs. They see these travel writers who are going all over the place, and they just want to jump ahead to that, but they need to let themselves be a Toyota first. You know, like, they need to … it’s not … if you get … you know, it’s the journey, right? I mean, this is what everybody is all about.
I saw this interview with a tightrope walker once, you know, these are … or it’s called like tightlining, I think, and you start by tying a rope by two trees and you walk across it like a tightrope, but then once you get really good at this, people are tying ropes across huge rock formations, like pieces of the Grand Canyon, and they’re walking across a tight rope, across, you know, the Grand Canyon. And she said one of the biggest mistakes that you can make as a tightliner is focusing on the end, because the whole point of tightlining is the journey from the start to the end. Once you’ve gotten to the end, it’s over. And I love that, because it’s the same thing with everything. It’s the same thing with marketing, it’s the same thing with travel writing, it’s the same things with photography. Once you get to the end, it’s over. You know, enjoy this time where you’re just figuring things out and you’re learning, because you can never go back to this. Like this is your beginning. And what better, I mean, we’re very lucky. In travel writing and photography, that journey is pretty fun. We’re not like learning how to clean teeth.
Lori: Or, you know, brush toilets. Like we’re traveling and we’re taking pictures and yeah, so I’d say that’s part of their big struggle is just letting themselves be a beginner and letting themselves go down a different journey and also, pushing aside those people in their life who don’t want them to make any changes or don’t want them to try anything new. So you have a little bit of that.
Tara: Yeah, I love that, and I see that with my clients as well, is that they’re just, they want to skip ahead to the end, and of course, even with entrepreneurship, there is … there is no end. You can’t …
Lori: There is no end.
Tara: You can’t skip ahead. The whole … the journey is the thing.
Tara: And if you expect to be perfect at it from the beginning, if you expect to just get it, you’re going to be very, very, very disappointed.
Tara: Yeah, okay, last question, and this is one that I ask the vast majority of our guests. You are both an executive and a marketer and an intrapreneur, really, an entrepreneur, and you have this amazing creative side to you as well where you love writing and you love taking photographs and you love exploration. How do you balance the roles of creative and executive in your business?
Lori: Yeah, that’s hard, right? Well, it’s lucky for me, because my products are creative.
Lori: So anytime that I’m at a workshop, or you know, whatever, I … it doesn’t look unusual for me to whip out a camera. That’s what everyone else is doing, so you know, I get that there. I also have very young kids, so you know, I get to play in the mud and paint and you know, do all that kind of stuff with them. It is hard, but I do think if you love what you do, like you kind of put your own spin on it anyway. I’d say I probably have it easier than most, just because my products are creative, but yeah, I think it’s always … it’s always hard. Like, right? You know, that’s another big lesson, too, is just that what people think is your job and what is really your job are often two different things.
You know, I think people look at me and they see me riding elephants and photographing lantern festivals and riding in Jeeps in Africa and they think that’s my job. Well, that’s not really my job. My job is first and foremost a marketer. Like, I am writing ads all day long. Like I … my hands are going to fall off, I write so much. And I read so much and I edit so much and I’m constantly trying to improve and see what other people are doing, and you know, I read a ton of books, and … but also, my job is raises and reviews for employees, and it’s, you know, figuring out insurance and tax questions and, you know, can we take Australian dollars on this ad from this affiliate. You know, like it’s a lot of technical things that I don’t like, and it is a balance to do more of what I like and not what I don’t like, but I think I’ve just gotten better at hiring people to deal with the things that I don’t like.
Lori: And that’s a lesson you learn … you learn, too. But you do have to understand in this business, like, whether you’re an artist, whether you’re a photographer, whether you’re a coach, you know, you think that’s your job. You think your job is to coach people. You think your job is to take pictures. You think your job is to paint. But it’s really not. It’s to sell your painting. It’s to sell your photographs. It’s to sell your coaching. So you need to just buck up and put on your marketing hat and learn how to do that, because that … that’s the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is the marketing.
Tara: Amen. I totally agree. Lori Allen, thank you so much for joining me today.
Lori: You’re welcome. Thank you so much for having me.
Tara: You can learn more about Lori and everything Great Escape Publishing has to offer budding travel writers and photographers by going to GreatEscapePublishing.com.
Next week, I’ll sit down with Jennifer Lee, founder and author of The Right Brain Business Plan, to talk about her current plan and how it’s helping her to evolve her business, why she decided to retire her successful Right Brainers in Business Video Summit, and how she manages her time as a creative business owner.
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That’s it for this week’s episode of Profit. Power. Pursuit. You can download other episodes of this podcast and subscribe in the iTunes store. If you enjoy what you heard, we appreciate your reviews and recommendations, because they help us reach as many emerging entrepreneurs as possible. Our theme song was written by Daniel Peterson, who also edited this episode. Our audio engineer was Jaime Blake. This episode was produced by Elizabeth Madariaga. You can catch up on older episodes in the iTunes store, where new episodes are added every week, and you can learn more by going to CreativeLive.com.
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