I was drinking an espresso, which Seth Godin had made using his very expensive and fancy espresso machine.
It was 2002, and I was sitting in Seth’s office with a small group of entrepreneurs.
We were discussing the future of marketing, and our individual marketing challenges.
“I’m in the radio business,” I said to Seth. “What advice do you have for me?”
Seth didn’t even miss a beat.
“If I were you,” he said, “I would pretend that one year from today the government was going to take away my transmitter. And then I would build a plan that will keep me in business after that happens.”
We brainstormed how I might do that.
I flew back home to Spokane, Washington, full of optimism and excitement.
Like Seth, I had seen the handwriting on the wall for the radio business… it was about to be completely murdered by MP3 players, satellite radio, and this little thing called the Internet.
But now I had a plan.
I was going to go home and show my radio brethren how we would leverage the Internet to our advantage, build permission-based lists, and move away from the old paradigm of selling interruption-style marketing to local businesses.
Only one problem.
None of my radio brethren wanted to hear that.
It was as if they were all lemmings, determined to march over the edge of a cliff, and despite my ardent warnings they would not be deterred.
I tried for a while to convert them to my way of thinking.
For a couple of years, I was the agenda chairperson of the largest seminar in the radio business, the Country Radio Seminar. It’s held each year in Nashville (of course).
For two years I was virtually shouted down by my peers, who actually said to me that MP3 players and music-over-the-Internet were “just passing fads”…
Hey guys, to quote the great theologian Toby Keith, “How do you like me now?”
Radio was down for the count.
I decided it was time to move on.
I left the business of broadcasting, and hung out my shingle as a direct response copywriter for Internet marketers.
My radio friends were aghast.
How could I leave a cushy six-figure position in the broadcasting business to do “marketing on the Internet”? Was I crazy?
Of course, they didn’t ask me if I was crazy, they were much more polite. But the question hung in the air.
It wasn’t long-perhaps a few months-before I started getting the phone calls.
Radio was going through a big round of layoffs, as more stations were bought by consolidators and employees were being eliminated to shore up the bottom line.
Suddenly, the same people who thought I was nuts only months before were now wondering how I managed to make a living without a job.
Those calls came in fast and furious for a while, and then began to subside. I still get a call or two like this every month.
This story does have a point, beyond illustrating how smart I am (tongue now planted firmly in cheek).
Here’s that point…
The industry I was part of (the radio industry) was headed for a cliff.
Some of us saw the cliff coming, and took a different route.
We avoided being pushed over the edge. Most did not avoid that fate, some of them are still out of work to this day, and almost all of them are busy whining and complaining about how they were “screwed” by the industry.
But we all had plenty of warning.
Even if one couldn’t figure out what was happening on one’s own, there were the prophetic voices of the industry, shouting from the rooftops that the end was near.
But much like the prophets of the Old Testament, the people didn’t like that message. So they didn’t listen. And they stoned the prophets.
Why am I telling you this story?
For the last decade or so, I have been enjoying the life of my dreams, fueled by my own business.
More than just a copywriter these days, my business consists of many facets: consulting private clients, writing books, speaking at conferences, creating and selling my own information products, and yes… I occasionally write some copy.
But this industry – what I would refer to as the “information marketing industry” – is approaching a cliff.
I call it the “Info Cliff”.
What does that mean?
It means that in the old days (maybe two years ago) you could still make plenty of money just by selling information. And lots of people did just that.
But by and large, that information was “how to” information. The marketplace has been flooded with plenty of eerily similar “how to” resources.
“How to” has become mostly “me too”.
You’re either regurgitating what someone else has already said, or you are providing fuel so that someone else can regurgitate what you said.
Either way, you are awash in a “sea of sameness”.
This is why many top info marketers, coaches, speakers, and other experts suddenly find themselves without cash flow.
The rising tide that floated all the boats has gone out. And, as Warren Buffett observed, when the tide goes out we can all see who was skinny dipping.
Many well-known names in the information marketing business are now completely out of that business. Some of them are selling software now. Some are buying and selling domain names.
Some have even gone back to working at j-o-b-s. Yup, you read that right. I’ll let you do your own research to figure out who.
What led to these dire consequences?
These folks simply fell off the “Info Cliff”.
Definition of “Info Cliff”: a condition in the marketplace of a proliferation of tired, regurgitated, recycled, and easily duplicatable “how to” information and products. This condition leaves prospects overloaded with information that they cannot use, that they’ve heard before, and that has absolutely no emotional appeal.
When information becomes a commodity, the buying criteria becomes price.
This is why a course that sold for $1,000 last year is being given away for free as an opt-in bribe this year.
So the question is: how do you avoid falling off the “Info Cliff”? How do you avoid being pushed off the edge by a competitor?
You’ve got to do exactly what I did when I left the radio business. Take a different road to reach your destination.
No, I’m not suggesting you get out of the business of information marketing.
No need to switch to a profession that requires wearing a paper hat.
What I am suggesting is that you “steal the ball” from the other players in the game, and do something that leaves them stunned and asking, “What just happened?”
I am suggesting that you try something so radical and so different that even when your competitors recognize what you’ve done, they have virtually no hope of duplicating or counteracting it.
Naturally, at this point, your question must revolve around exactly how you might do that.
That’s what I suggest you spend your time thinking about. And think hard.
Because thinking is hard work. That’s okay. Because it’s also high-paying work, when you do it right.
And it’s something most of your competitors are simply not willing to do.