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Creating your own first big business success [PODCAST]


PreneurCast is a marketing + business podcast. Each week, author and marketer Pete Williams and digital media producer Dom Goucher discuss entrepreneurship, business, internet marketing and productivity.

This week, Pete and Dom go back in time and re-live Pete’s first big business success – the time he sold the Melbourne Cricket Ground for $500! It’s a great process to study, as it covers lots of topics they’ve talked about before, all in one project.

Pete and Dom talk about Pete’s first big business success and what he learned in the process

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Episode 038:
How Pete Sold the MCG

Pete Williams: Welcome back, everyone, to this week’s episode of PreneurCast, with me, Pete Williams, and my trusty sidekick Dom Goucher. Hello, buddy!

Dom Goucher: I’m good, I’m good. “Trusty sidekick.” We’re sticking with that Batman and Robin metaphor, aren’t we?

Pete: Yeah, well, it’s better than partner in crime.

Dom: Maybe, maybe; slightly more racy aspect to it, possibly less silly outfits.

Pete: Yes. I could call you my wingman? That’s a bit racier.

Dom: I’m good with that. But before this gets out of hand let’s just get on with it, how’s your week been?

Pete: Well, it’s been good. Week’s been very good. A bit hot again the last couple of days here down in Australia, which is nice as it should be in the summer.

Dom: Hang on a minute, hang on a minute. We had like six months of, “Don’t talk about the weather,” because it was hot where I was and cold where you were.

Pete: Oh? Don’t I get to make the rules?

Dom: This is supposed to be a partnership! Just hang on a minute.

Pete: Fair point, fair point.

Dom: Stick your weather, it’s freezing here.

Pete: Alright, edit it out in post.

Dom: Yeah, yeah- hey, don’t start that.

Pete: I am just pushing all your buttons today aren’t I, and we’re only about two minutes in.

Dom: Put that NLP manual down and get on with the podcast.

Pete: So, last week, good show. I think everybody seemed to enjoy it; feedback as usual is always great.

Dom: Indeed, indeed. Thank you, everybody. Little detail, folks. Don’t forget, we are still in time to get your entries into our little Christmas giveaway. We’ll cover that again at the end. Will cover that again at the end, I think, but just a reminder.

Pete: Sounds good. But, yeah, the Preneur Hierarchy resonated with a lot of people, which was great; helping give some structure and obviously a framework- the Word of the Year for me at the moment anyway, to people’s marketing; giving them a bit more of a structure to go around, working out where they’re spending their money to bring in new business and new leads to their companies and their projects.

I think it was very good, so that was a little self-indulgent. Today’s episode is probably going to be also self-indulgent. But yeah, so far so good with the episodes this year.

Dom: Yeah. No, I think the Preneur Hierarchy, other than the self-indulgent name, isn’t a particularly self-indulgent thing and it’s very, very helpful. It’s one of those things that gives people perspective. It makes you stand back and look at what you’re doing.

And I think, as you say, frameworks and action plans are our watchwords for the year. That was a really good one to start with because it also refers to the first level of the 7 Levers of Business, insomuch as you’re looking for traffic. That’s what marketing is pretty much about.

Pete: Yep, absolutely.

Dom: And so looking at it from that perspective, it does fit in very well with what we’d been talking about towards the end of the year. It’s certainly something that we’re going to probably bring to bear a lot more into our Mastermind Group. We’re going to be focusing people with that Preneur Hierarchy, that’s one of the very first things that we do.

I also got some good personal feedback from that as well, so it was a good start. This week, you mentioned last week, and as you say on the thread of self-indulgence, but also in the thread of good lessons, we’re going to talk about how you sold the MCG.

Pete: Yeah. There have been quite a few emails from listeners who, I guess, their first experience of yourself and myself and what we do has come through the podcast, due to all the fantastic feedback we’ve had on iTunes. It has obviously helped the podcast rank really well and get new people into the community. A lot of people are probably aware of the tagline that I’ve had for a while about selling the MCG.

For those who don’t know, it’s the Melbourne Cricket Ground, also known as Australia’s version of Yankee Stadium, or Lord’s Cricket Ground for those of you in the European area. A lot of people have asked, can they hear a bit more about how that happened and the story behind it, and some lessons and entrepreneurial takeaways that we can share from that experience? So, we thought we’d take on the request and actually do an episode and talk about it.

Dom: Great. Well, in this particular case, the stage is all yours.

Pete: OK. Basically, to give some history, I was living in the United States for about six months when I finished university. I took some time off and traveled around the world and did some stuff over there. I came back to Australia and worked with The Athlete’s Foot, which is a company I’ve mentioned loosely on the podcast a few times. They have some great structure and frameworks when it comes to marketing and sales, and things like that.

So I worked with Athlete’s Foot while I was studying at university, and the reason- well not the reason- an excuse for my trip to the United States was to actually again work with The Athlete’s Foot over there and get an idea what they were doing throughout their stores in America to bring back some reconnaissance to Australia. But given that it was winter- and not to go too much down the weather track again- I wanted to spend as much time as I could in the warmer climates of America.

It was over the Christmas period, so I chose Florida and ended up staying at the same store for the whole period of time because I didn’t want to get anywhere near the snow. So, I did that, came back to Australia with plans to move to the US. I took a bit of an interim position again with The Athlete’s Foot at a relatively new store that had just opened up and was there sort of helping them build that up.

One of the days, it was a little bit quiet. So I was reading a book called The One Minute Millionaire by Mark Victor Hansen and Robert Allen while I was on the counter. Obviously, when you’re on the counter, you can’t do a whole lot of other admin stuff except standing there and waiting for people to walk in the doors. I was reading the book and I read a story of a New Jersey man who bought pieces of timber, or the planks of timber that were the walkway of the Brooklyn Bridge.

He made little certificates up with the history of the Brooklyn Bridge and attached a small piece of that timber, turned it around, got a lot of exposure for that project, sold them for maybe $20 a pop. Rumor has it he made a couple of million dollars out of it because of all the exposure he got. I thought that was just a fantastic idea, and the little Richard Branson-wannabe that I was at the time started thinking about how I could replicate that concept and take the foundation of what that was and apply it here in Australia.

I was an avid sports memorabilia collector; I could see how that all sort of tied together. I just realized that the Melbourne Cricket Ground had just started its renovations. It went under a pretty big renovation here in Melbourne due to the Commonwealth Games that we had here a few years ago, and realized that the seating of the grandstand or the first grandstand that had been pulled down at the time was made out of timber.

So, I was making a few phone calls, was able to get ahold of the wrecking company that was doing the demolition and said to them, “Do you have any of the timber? What are you doing with the timber?” They said, “It’s just sitting here in our warehouse doing nothing. If you want to come and buy it, by all means you’re an idiot, but come and buy some secondhand timber, it’s fine.”

But the guy also mentioned that he had a lot of the Melbourne Cricket Club-crested carpet available sitting in the back of the warehouse getting damp and dreary and dingy as well. The Melbourne Cricket Club (MCC) was another stand that has since been demolished, so it was quite iconic. It was very old and very historic. The waiting list to become a member there is like 50 years or something ridiculous like that. The dining room part of that members’ area actually spread across into that first grandstand that got pulled down.

The carpet was very ugly, but it had the monogram of the logo of the MCC on there, and I knew again how famous that carpet was. I fundamentally bought all the carpet and a little bit of the timber sight unseen with a friend’s credit card at the time because my credit card was completely maxed out after my US trip. I then went down the following day to double-check it all and put it on the back of a courier’s van and snatched it all up. That’s sort of the premise about how it all came about.

We sort of tied it back to lessons and stuff, which is the question that spurred us onto doing this episode. I guess the key lesson out of that first thing is from the moment I read that chapter to actually picking up the phone and started tracking down the wrecking company, I would say, was no more than 10 or 15 minutes. It was basically I had this idea and thought, “OK, I’m going to take action on this straightaway,” and started making those phone calls. That was the first key lesson out of all of that to begin with anyway.

Dom: Wow. That is quite amazing. I mean, we do talk all the time about taking action, about implementing things, giving things a go; but that’s amazing.

Pete: It was very cool. That’s how I sort of kicked off. And from there, being a sports memorabilia collector and that as a side hobby or passion, I realized that we could easily frame up a photo of the MCG, with a piece of that crested carpet. So, cut out that monogram and the logo, and get that framed up with a small plaque outlining the history of the MCG with a bit of a limited edition number as they always do with sports memorabilia. Given my skill set, I am not a carpenter on any level.

So I found a memorabilia company who was quite local, worked out of his garage at home and had a retail store on the main street of the town I was living in at the time. I bought quite a bit of signed memorabilia and unframed stuff while I was in the States, so I already had a bit of a relationship with this guy who was signing up all those. You know, signed boxing gloves and signed photos and bits and pieces like that? I got ahold of him and coordinated it so he’d do all the manufacturing.

I just had no skill set around that. My next-door neighbor at the time was an ex-carpenter. He cut all the timber that we purchased into the frame. The actual frame itself, or a limited-edition number of those pieces, was framed out of the timber that was the MCG as well as having the carpet piece in the whole piece that was being sold. He was able to do that. Had the timber and the carpet literally just sitting at this framer’s home garage, and he made the frames on an on-demand type basis, which is really nice.

Dom: Cool. And another lesson there, which is outsourcing.

Pete: Yeah. That was, I guess, my first real-world experience with outsourcing. I didn’t have that skill set in place, but I didn’t let that stop me for want of a better sort of analogy there. What we actually did is, even a bit of a higher lesson we can see how this all sort of fits in; with the sales, every sale was with a two to three-week delivery and lead time.

It gave us enough time to produce the frame and send it to the recipient, and meet that demand. We set their expectations up front saying, “Due to the demand, it is going to be two or three weeks’ delivery time from your order, so please bear with us in terms of delivery.” That set the expectation right for the end purchasers so they weren’t wondering where their goods were.

Obviously, we had a limited amount of carpet, so we weren’t selling something that we didn’t already have and people were aware that the frame were being made as we were going because of the demand. What that actually meant was that I got paid up front. We charged the credit card the price of the frame before we even had the actual production underway. That way, I was able to make the whole project cash flow positive from Day One.

That way, we got the order in and I literally had that order, sent the details through the phone who then made the frame, boxed it up, packed it up, and the courier came and picked it up from the framers, and still does now. It’s now a different framer for the frames we’re still selling- and I didn’t have to do anything. I could literally, for wont of an analogy that’s being used over and over again, sit at home in my underwear and run my business.

Dom: Well, that’s basically drop shipping.

Pete: Exactly. It’s outsourcing and drop-shipping the whole thing.

Dom: How old were you?

Pete: I’d just turned 21.

Dom: And after reading this book, seeing the opportunity, you made the call, you went down there, you got the carpet, you put all of the different processes in place, and you actually really hadn’t done that much work, had you? I mean, you’d done the thinking, you’d done the legwork to go get the carpet, do the deal, and you found the people, but that was it.

Pete: It was basically just project management. Probably the best cap you could probably put on my head, if you want to look at it that way, was project manager. I was just coordinating the whole project so it would run smoothly.

Dom: Amazing.

Pete: And then I had that system in place, that framework in place to then focus on the marketing. Because from my perspective, it wasn’t about the product so much. Obviously, we had a great framer and still work with a great framer who looks after all that and puts a great product together. But for me, it wasn’t necessarily about the product; it was about marketing the product.

Dom: And that’s what I love about this story, is there are two halves to it. There’s the taking action and the process that you did to put the opportunity together, the thing that you can sell, the product, and how you leveraged everything to get that done. But the other part that is equally as interesting, if not more interesting to a lot of our listeners, is the marketing.

But I don’t want people to overlook that first part, the making of the product, the having the idea and then bringing in the people to get it done, to leverage what you’ve got. You know, you did the project management, you found the people and you know what you wanted them to do, but you got the experts to do it including building and shipping.

Pete: And that’s the part of the story that I haven’t shared as much as the other side. Obviously, the sexy side of all this is I found the idea and I turned around and sold it; but there’s the real ‘business lessons’ which are kind of boring for the general public, so to speak, such as how we were able to structure a business. I say ‘we’ because I did have a partner in that who helped me get the credit card to access to buy the carpet originally, and had a bit of time on his hands to help coordinate and all that sort of stuff.

So, a big shout-out to Bruce [Hultgren] who I know listens to the podcast as well. The business is structured very particularly for those reasons because I didn’t have the skill set of making the frames. I didn’t have the time to make the frames or time necessary to do the deliveries and stuff like that because I was still working at The Athlete’s Foot 35, 40 hours a week. It was really a deliberate structure set up because the limitations forced us to put the business in place that way and build the system around it because of the limitations that we had.

Dom: Absolutely. And I think the great thing about this is that it’s got so many parallels in so many different businesses. It’s not just that it was a physical thing that, obviously you’re not a carpenter, obviously you can’t make it yourself, blah blah blah blah. This maps all the way up to say what you or I do, what I do for you in your business right now, where you actually could do some of the things that I do in terms of the media production.

But now you have all the businesses that you’ve got to run, you’re still at that project-manager level, you’re coming up with the idea and the core content. We’re talking now back to the Content Leverage System piece that you did for the Noble Samurai guys, if anybody’s interested in looking at that. But literally, your input into that process once you designed the actual concept of the product is just to sit down with a mind map and record some audio.

You put that initial piece of effort in; and then after that, you’ve put together a team of people that convert it and mold it and build it and make it into the actual product, albeit video, audio, text, things like that; and distribute it for you. You’ve taken exactly the same concept and looked at your business and what you can best put into it, and what you also that don’t need to get involved in; and you’ve outsourced the rest. It’s an incredibly valuable business lesson, to look at opportunities from that point of view, in my mind.

Pete: Absolutely. I’m going to try and take that as a backhanded compliment saying I’m lazy. But moving on from the structural side of things, which was really important for the success of it for me, is the whole marketing side of things as well. The real key driver, at least for the initial influx of sales by any means, was mass media exposure I was able to get from that. I wrote a press release with the headline, ’21-Year-Old Sells the MCG for Under $500.’

I sent that out to a whole bunch of media that’s around Australia, and got so much radio coverage, so much metropolitan newspaper coverage, some TV coverage on the national news. That was just a huge wave of exposure that not only got traffic, so to speak, to the business, but also a great way to build the brand around the MCG project and also my brand to a certain extent as well, which was just fantastic.

Dom: I love that headline. It is a classic, classic headline from back in the good old days of advertising and marketing. But the more interesting thing there, and I think the thing that quite a lot of listeners at that point would have gone and literally have stopped dead in their tracks, you offhandedly say, “and I sent a press release out.” You and I worked on your Going Analogue product, which was my really detailed look into how you do these things. But it’s not really as hard as people think, is it?

Pete: No, no, it’s not. And it’s probably worth a whole episode in its own right about publicity and stuff. A lot of people these days are teaching PR [public relations] and similar topics, and I think it’s a very valuable tool. Let’s do next week’s episode, we’ll delve into PR in a much deeper level and we can lay out the foundation and how to get that exposure for a business, creatively being proactive, and also some cool ways to be reactive and get media exposure as well, which is something that a lot of people don’t talk about too. We can definitely delve into that next week on the PreneurCast.

Dom: Cool, that would be great. I was going to say I just flagged that, didn’t want to interrupt your flow; but I flagged that because people I know for myself, if before I met you and before I studied some of this stuff that you’ve done, if somebody had said, “Just do a press release,” that would be it. I would switch off.

Pete: Yep. Yeah, absolutely understandable. We’ll delve into this. But this was definitely the big crux for the initial launch anyway, the exposure that press release got me and it was fantastic. That was a good way. And then, obviously, we had a website and did all the usual marketing, probably not to the same level that I do these days and definitely not doing these days.

I think we did leave a lot of exposure and a lot of traffic on the table. We did do some very traditional magazine adverts. Definitely, the Preneur Hierarchy wasn’t around as a framework to lean on, so we had the PR stuff but then jumped very much towards the high-end pointy part of that pyramid there and did some media exposure, some advertisements, and it completely bombed.

Absolutely bombed. That was a good lesson very early on to make sure that you target the bottom, high-ROI elements of the Preneur Hierarchy before you go and do mass media advertising, because it’s definitely a waste of cash in most circumstances.

Dom: Definitely. And not only just a waste of cash, but also it’s so difficult to track it by comparison.

Pete: Yeah, you’re exactly right. Exactly right. That was a good lesson, and we continue to sell the frames now, and actually did a relaunch of the whole project about 12-18 months ago now. Did quite a significant relaunch of all of that, which was a huge success second time around, and kind of did it a completely different way.

Dom: And that’s been almost half the questions from my side looking at the feedback about this, have been, OK, well, you did this quite a few years ago now; and then you did the relaunch; and then the questions have been around, what have you done differently the second time around?

And also, if it’s different what would you do differently again if you did it now? That’s one of the things that I’m interested in, because you’ve learned a lot. As you said, the first time around you did the spray-and-pray with the magazine adverts, and you’ve learned something from that. The origins from the Preneur Hierarchy even came out of that.

Pete: Absolutely.

Dom: So, what did you learn? What did you apply second time around?

Pete: Yeah, sure. Well, it’s a bit of a loaded question too. We’ve been working on the third relaunch. That’s slightly a loaded question, but I like where you’re going with that, mate. So, in terms of what we did second time around is we did a traditional product launch. If you go back and listen to some previous episodes of PreneurCast; I’m not quite sure what episode number it was, but we did a whole episode on Product Launches.

I think we touched a little bit on the relaunch that we did for the MCG stuff. What we did in a nutshell, not to recap too much or regurgitate stuff we’ve already covered here on the show, but I did a traditional launch where I had a squeeze page which was a website page we set up over at OwnTheG.com.au and had a video there with me just explaining what the product was all about and how people had the opportunity to own a piece of the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

“It’s going on sale in a couple of weeks, it’ll be open and launched shortly. If you want to get on the early bird list and have access to the frames before the general public- there’s only X amount of frames that are going to be available- put your name and email address onto this website now and you’ll be on that prerelease notification list.”

That was fundamentally the start of the launch, and sent a lot of traffic to that site by doing forum advertising, online banner advertising, a little bit of pay-per-click stuff from an AdWords perspective and drove a lot of traffic to that site; did a little PR again and got some exposure on radio and print media as well, second time around using just a slight tweak of that original press release; and drove a lot of traffic to that site and built up a brand new community from scratch in a very short period of time.

Over that two-week period as we got everything in place to do the relaunch because we changed framers (I moved from the old framer to another framer, a larger framer who could handle a lot more demand at a cheaper price point closer to me where I am now in Melbourne) and got all those systems in place to get all that organized and made sure they go about it; do the same sort of structure that I wanted.

They’d been doing stuff like boxing and delivering and all that for me too, so I made sure that was in place. But over that two-week period, what we did was do a number of marketing pieces to the community to build up their demand, let them get exposure and excitement around the availability to own a piece of the MCG. I did videos of me at the framers discussing with the framer the frame being made.

You could actually see the high-quality frames, and the love and care that went into making a piece of Australian sporting history; wrote some emails back and forth explaining all the comments we had been getting and feeding it back into the community. Did a really fun video where I actually jumped onto a bunch of competitors’ websites, other people who sell sports memorabilia, and did a video of me walking through their website, going, “Look at this.

It’s a manufactured cricket bat signed by the athlete. There’s 2000 of them, and they’re selling them for $1500 each. It’s completely manufactured, there’s no authenticity in this really. Yes, the autograph is personally signed, that’s authentic, but the limited edition-ness, for want of a better word, has been manufactured. Whereas, the MCG carpet, the piece of carpet that you’re going to own shortly, which is going to be available, is 100% authentic sporting history.

It’s not a manufactured piece on any level.” So, built up that demand, set the price point expectations quite high of what other people who are selling this manufactured. Got to be careful what word I use- the manufactured sports memorabilia is selling at quite a high price point. So when I showed them that, hey, here’s a chance to own something authentic at a much cheaper price point, it was just an obvious, easy purchase for them to make.

They felt like they were actually buying savings, or buying money at a discount is what Dan Kennedy to it as. That should be valued at a lot higher or is valued at a lot higher, so they’d be silly not to do that because they’d be leaving money on the table. That’s the whole selling to sales mentality. That’s how we did that, and did that four or five-piece marketing sequence leading up to the launch of it.

And then the day that the frames are ready to be made available and had the shopping cart open, had quite a lot of demand built up and sold a significant number of frames in that first four or five-hour period. The demand was built up, the relationship with that community that I made was built up, and you know they were absolutely limited edition pieces of history that were at a very, very good price point.

Dom: Excellent. I love the fact that that second time around, you applied a lot of the product launch stuff that we talked about. It was Episode 27, by the way, that we talked about the product launch. I’ll put a link in the notes. But I think that you made a difference, a significant difference, and I just want to talk about a couple of those things from a different perspective.

First of all, the building, the anticipation, I think, was quite a significant part of that and those sales. But also involving and building like a miniature community by talking to them, by communicating with them, by being quite open really. I’ve looked at a lot of the media that you’ve produced, and it is that kind of insider knowledge that behind-the-scenes look at what we’re going to give you, really giving them an experience of the product before they actually get it.

And these are all the things that are important when you’re doing marketing. They’re all big marketing lessons. You kind of crammed them all into this one launch. The other thing- I’m always big on this, you know I am- the other thing, you offhandedly say twice, “Oh, I did a video.” What I think is great about those videos is one of them, the one where you talk about the other people’s websites is literally a recording of course computer screen.

You can get a standard piece of software to do that. You can use something like Camtasia on the PC or ScreenFlow on the Mac. There’s hundreds of pieces of software now every day coming out that will let you do that very easily. And you literally just sat at your computer, went to a website and talked about what was in front of you. That was it. And when you went to the framers- again, you probably had a flip camera back then.

Pete: It was indeed, yup.

Dom: But these days, iPhone or your favorite Android device is a perfectly sufficient camera to just do one of these. Everybody accepts it’s a behind-the-scenes thing. I’m just going to say it now, I’ve been dying to say it, but all this is about framing- I’m sorry. It’s been there. But it’s psychological framing, we talk about it a lot. But everything you’ve been doing has been about, talking about framing. You let people know that this was a behind-the-scenes video, so they expect shaky camera.

They don’t expect perfect lighting, microphone, and full camera crew; they expect you on your camera phone going in and chatting to this guy who looks like a deer in the headlights because he’s never been in front of a camera before. You tell them you’re looking at a website, that’s what they expect to see. Nobody expects perfect production if you frame it.

And then all this goes towards the big frame which is, as you said, “Look what people are manufacturing out there at this price. This is an accepted piece of sports memorabilia in the marketplace. This is a popular piece. It sells well for this price at this quality level. I’m going to exceed that quality level. In fact, I’m showing you I’ve exceeded the quality level because you can see me making it, and I’m not going to charge you that price,” and the implication there is, “But I should.”

And it’s just a fantastic setup, a great example of framing and positioning, a real example of building a tribe, building anticipation. Honestly, you need to go back and listen to this again almost if you happen to be taking notes, to just write down and look at it and identify all the things that we’ve probably talked about up until now in all of our podcasts. I think this one thing embodies pretty much all of those things.

Pete: %


Take Away: Look for the opportunity (as Pete did) and take action.

Action Step: Swipe and deploy Pete’s process, or anyone else’s by steeping through their sales funnels.

Bonus Action Step: Get your free copy of Pete’s audio book from http://preneurmarketing.com.

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