How to Get from 20 Million to 100 Million in Online Sales: Lessons from Agora Publishing

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about the success of our competitors such as Centerpointe and especially, Agora Publishing. I don't know how I did it, but I stumbled across the entire collection of Agora swipe files.

Michael Masterson is the founder of Agora. I've read some of his work, and I have bought his books before. Earlytorise is just one of Agora's mini empires, because Agora Publishing itself is a $100M company, based mainly on internet marketing. Although they have physical products e.g books, the bulk of what they do lies in internet marketing or using internet marketing channels.

I found it really interesting because most Internet marketers don't get that big. Most internet marketers celebrate when they earn $1M a year, or like Eben Pagan making $20M a year. What Agora makes is almost akin to the direct marketing giants, the offline marketing giants like Boardroom and Weiss International.

We need to start doing what successful businesses are doing, so I thought to myself, what is Agora doing that we aren't?

5 Discoveries on Agora

1. Think like a direct response marketer

Mary Ellen Tribby said 'think like a marketer'. She didn't say with the accuracy that I would like it said. I think that is too general a statement, because what kind of marketer do you want to think like? After studying Agora, I think this is the answer: think like a direct response marketer.

Ken McCarthy said the internet is a direct response medium. A lot of other people have said it too. The problem is this: we don't know what direct response really marketing is, because we don't study how the direct response giants really work. I believe Agora studied and replicated their formats of the offline giants, the people who have been in direct marketing for the last 100years.

Do you know that the best sales copywriting is not from website copy? The people we celebrate don't even begin to compare to the offline marketers. When you subscribe to Boardroom, Weiss International or some of the things that Clayton Makepeace is involved with, you find that the quality of the direct response copywriting is extremely good.

It is precise and extremely targeted to the prospect because they cannot afford to lose money, whereas internet marketers put up a sales page, put in a swipe file and hope that it works. These guys know the market, and the key thing about thinking like a direct response marketer is this: they idolize the greatest marketing genius of all time. Who? The prospect. Not Jay Abraham and not Dan Kennedy. The prospects are the ones who hand you the money.

If you are marketing a product or a service, you must think like them. Think in their frame of mind: when they surf the net and search something in the search engine, how do they search? What is the buying process? What is their relationship with you?

Direct marketers are really good at this; it's one-on-one marketing in its most personal and intimate form. A lot of internet marketers don't do this, but Agora does this really well.

2. Make newsletters your main form of marketing.

We often write newsletters quite flippantly as a way of getting revenue. Agora, on the other hand, has made newsletters their business and their business model. It's almost their only way of marketing. Agora has made newsletters their driving force, and their main source of revenue, and that's made $100M for them. I can only speculate why this has worked so well, but I think it's this:

A newsletter is the ultimate form of relationship building because it is continuous. This is the exact opposite of a free report, where you get a lead and you get them to give you their email address. A report is one-off, and they may not welcome what you have to offer them later.

When people sign up for a newsletter, they want to know what you have to offer, and they expect you to keep in touch. They expect you to give them information and value. They are in a different frame of mind, and it drives lead generation because people freely give their email wanting to get something of value, which Agora gives.

It gives the newsletter the right to keep bombarding them with messages, which has proved very useful for Agora.

3. Always be there.

Dan Kennedy taught me this; people are not loyal to brands. The key way to get money out of your prospect's pocket is to make sure you are there when they need you.

For example, if you're in insurance and if you've been talking to me and I haven't bought from you for six months, when my aunt dies unexpectedly I'm not going to look for the big names. If you're not there at that point in time, I'll look for someone else, whoever's nearest and most easily available and speaking to me then.

Most of the time, you don't know when you are reaching people at their point of need. The only solution, therefore, is to keep being there for them. Earlytorise is there Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. They are there first thing in the morning…so guess who you turn to when you have a need to generate wealth or health.

Another thing - the more frequently a marketer communicates, the more receptive the prospect becomes – the best friends are the ones who are always there (or they can unsubscribe).

4. Put relationship before selling.

Agora does this. A few of their sites do have one-time offers, but this is very rare. It's usually tiny, maybe a $37 book. They build a fantastic relationship even before they ask you to buy.

As the newsletters keep giving you value, they grow as a friend and become the authority, so that the minute they give something to buy, people do. I subscribe to these newsletters, and chances are if they asked me to buy, I might have to stop myself because I have developed an emotional bond with the newsletters.

And of course, they treat their buyers right, which is often seen with offline and direct marketers. Clayton Makepeace told me this; the way to know how they treat their customers is to keep buying their products. Let's say you subscribe to Boardroom and you buy keep buying from them - sooner or later, you will see marketing that is very targeted towards you: targeted copy, value and offers that you don't find if you don't buy from them and you study them from the surface.

After you've bought 3 or 4 products, they start offering you ten thousand dollar products and at that time, you buy. We just need to see the formula and replicate it.

5. Utilize the 2 Leverage points: Content and Copywriting.

Internet has opened the market, so as an internet marketer you have to work a lot harder than a direct response marketer. What distinguishes what you are trying to sell from what people can probably get online, free?

Agora's model, in direct contrast to direct marketers, for example, gives away a newsletter for which they should probably be charging you. Direct response marketers will make sure that you pay for those newsletters.

The key is to create great in-house content, and to give more value than the customer expects. Agora caught onto this early, so they don't sell it to you, they give it away. They make you a buyer down the line, they become more attractive than any internet marketing competitor online. They have no big names working there - they have a process to build up advertising students into brilliant content writers and copy writers who they never leave because they get royalties.

For example, their copywriting is so good that for a $27 book, without using product launch formula, purely on email marketing and sales copywriting they generated 6million.

Their emphasis is on content and giving you value – you do not get what you pay for, you get something that you would pay to get. Michael Masterson has a lot of good advice that can actually make you money. And the only way to keep coming up with content like this 5 or 6 times a week is by investing in many in-house people to produce constant and consistent content.

All of this is probably part of the secret to Agora's success...


Prior to MindValley Media, Mike was the Head of New Ventures Strategy at eBay where he conceived of the strategies that led to the investment in Craigslist, the launch of and the acquisition of Skype. Mike has an MBA from Stanford and previously worked for the Boston Consulting Group. He is also a certified Google AdWords Professional. MindValleyLabs Internet Marketing Blog:

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