This time, we're talking with the internet lifestyle mentor, Terry Dean.
Now, he's been coaching entrepreneurs on how to earn more, work less, and enjoy life since 1996. So with over a quarter of a century's worth of experience under his belt, I'm excited to dive in.
Terry Dean. It's great to meet you.
It's great to be here.
Well, 26 years, it's quite a long time. So you must be doing something right. How did it all start for you?
Well, it started off, as you mentioned back in 1996. And I was a pizza delivery driver for Little Caesars. And that was my last of many dead end jobs, such as: I signed people up for credit cards in front of Sears. I tried selling satellite
dishes door-to-door. (I sold a grand total of zero over two weeks, they let me go pretty quickly.) And then the last job was delivering pizzas. That was the last job I had, and the last job I ever will have.
And at that point in time, the internet was just getting started. And I heard a few stories of people who started online with basically what you'd consider kitchen table type businesses. They go to online and they were selling VHS videos, self-help type videos, things like that. And I basically said, "You know what? This is something I could do."
I was never able to sell one-on-one, sell directly. I was probably the worst salesperson you'd ever seen. But I said, "With the internet, I can hide behind a screen, and I can write to people. I can communicate with people. I can rethink my thoughts on paper with all the editing processes and everything else. And this is something that I could do."
So I start off by going to Best Buy. And this was one of our last credit cards that still had money on it. It was a Best
Buy credit card, because we had a lot of other debts at the time from failed business opportunities. We had a
basement full of junk that I had bought trying to go into network marketing, trying to do direct mail, things like that. And I had always failed going into it. So I was a failure going somewhere to happen.
But I started online. I bought my first PC at Best Buy. It was a Pentium-75, which is now a paperweight at best. And I
went on CompuServe. Many of the younger people don't even know what it is, CompuServe. But I started there. And
this is funny because this was before social media, before anything like this. But I started inside the message boards
on CompuServe, because they had a whole bunch of different message boards about different topics. And I went into some of the ones that were about direct mail. That were about online. That were about things like email. And I started participating in these boards and sharing content and looking for questions that people were asking. And I started answering those questions at the same time.
I started studying from what I consider some of my mentors, although I didn't deal with them directly at the time. I started studying products by Gary Halbert and Jay Abraham. And eventually, I grew a little bit more in the business. I hired John Carlton to coach me on the copywriting side.
And I was learning and then answering questions. And I started building an email list back then. And that was
probably the smartest thing I ever did, was starting that email list. And the way it worked is I would just communicate with people, answer questions. I would give a link to, "Hey, you can go download this freebie by joining my email list." My email list started growing. I started earning an income. It was several months in and within that first year, I pretty much had a full-time income. It wasn't a great full-time income. Because remember, I was a pizza delivery driver. It was a full-time income replacing that, not a medical doctor type income, but I got there.
And as I said, the smartest thing I did was building that email list because about six months in, I realised that my income was directly proportional to the size of my email list. If my email list grew, so did my income. And I communicated with people back then, I was afraid if I communicated too often, they would tune me out. So I only sent like one email a week. I've learned since then, you can send multiple emails per day if you have something good to say to your audience. But back then, I limited myself to one email a week. And that's where my business really started from, was just communicating with people.
And I bought reprint rights, basically licences to several, again, VHS videos, back then there were self-help videos, videos of people like Mark Victor Hansen and people like that, that I'm sure some will know. There's others as well.
And I started selling those VHS videos and we're again, going way back in '96. I had this big duplicator set up of VHS videos and I would duplicate all the videos, and we would mail them out to our customers. And that was really where my business began. It began with, we'll say social media of that day, of building a list and answering questions, and then getting them on my email list. So basically going out, getting traffic, giving content. I was one of the first content marketers online, probably, you would say at least on the small scale side of it. And building an email list and then selling products. So that was pretty much my early beginnings, which isn't a whole lot different than what people do today, even though that's Stone Age of the internet.
Stone Age, indeed. The funny thing is, it's an introvert's dream, I guess, this kind of business. Because as you say,
you can hide behind your computer screen. The interesting part there, Terry, that you talked about is the fact that you were duplicating VHS video cassettes. Now, that is quite a challenge to do because of course people say, "Oh, it's so much easier on the internet." Back in 1996, there was fewer people around to have competitive
businesses. But I guess, physically, it was actually quite a demanding thing for you to do.
There was a lot of things that were difficult back then. Now, there was less competition back then, but it was much more difficult to reach your customers. For me, there was only one place at that time for me to go, was CompuServe. There was a few other small places that you could go, but there wasn't a whole lot of place you could get in front of customers. And at the same time, everything was so manual. We had to duplicate our VHS videos, which again, I had a stack. I think we had like a five stack, which meant you put VHS video and you copied onto five, which took an hour. It took however long the video was, is how long it took to duplicate those. We had to physically mail them out to customers.
When I first processed credit cards, we actually had to take orders manually... We put up a secure system to take
orders, but our orders were not automatically processed online. We had to take those orders and then process them manually, separately after they came in. So I sound a little bit like old grandpa saying, "We had to walk up hill
both ways to school, five miles both ways to school." But it was like that, everything was so manual. It felt like
everything was so difficult. And I had to figure out everything along the way.
Now obviously, you've been around online for 26 years. You must have seen quite a lot of change in that time. Obviously, you came through the dot-com boom and bust in the year 2000 or thereabouts. How did that affect you at that point?
Interestingly enough, through all the changes that we've seen online, you always have to adapt to what's going on. But the fact that I focused again on the email list, and I think this is going to become a major emphasis as I'm discussing here, by focusing on that, a lot of the other problems that we've seen or changes that we've seen have always had a small effect on me. Probably some of the biggest effects that I've seen over time is several times the search engines that are a major change. Obviously, I've been around before Google was major. So search engines have changed.
Some of the tools that we use online have changed. Obviously, some of the advertising that we use has changed. And this is a funny one, even something like banner ads, we used banner ads heavily back around the year 2000. So that was real heavy. Then banner ads basically went away for a long time. And now, we have other versions of banner ads, but like the Google ad network, you can still use banner ads. So you can still use those. It's a little bit different version of them, but it's almost like things come in and out of style in online marketing.
... the focus on the Email List throughout my entire business has really had a factor of keeping everything stable and increasing.
The big key though, by focusing on the email list, my income has stayed stable and increased throughout all that period. There was a time that I sold off my first business and took a break from the internet for 18 months, and then came back later on. And so, that's the only like little break in my income online. But other than that, the focus on the email list throughout my entire business has really had a factor of keeping everything stable and increasing. And it's no matter what goes on, you're able to go through any changes or anything else because you have that focus on your audience and your lists.