For most, Silicon Valley is a hotbed of technological productivity, teeming with a sea of startups, each clamoring for the attention of both consumers and venture capitalists. Yet, located some 670 miles northeast from the world’s most infamous birther of global tech behemoths and newly-minted startups, sits a little town in Boise, Idaho, which is now home to one of the hottest SaaS companies in the world. In short, Russell Brunson has become a multi-millionaire!
However, as the virtual doors silently opened to ClickFunnels in 2014 — Russell Brunson’s innovative startup that has been silently revolutionizing the online marketing industry — there wasn’t a single VC in sight. There was no one there to make suggestions on sales strategies or attempt to influence Brunson’s business plan to scale or flesh-out the platform in any shape or manner.
Nope. Not one. Brunson was on his own.
However, ClickFunnels, which was entirely self-funded by Brunson’s Etison, LLC, launched amid a dazzle of emails that sent sizzling sales copy, enticing over 1 million people on his list to join his latest venture. Yes, you heard me. Over one million people. That’s the size of Brunson’s email list. And it’s growing stronger by the day.
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The competitive advantage that Brunson holds over your average founder is one of deep entrenchment in the internet marketing space. He lives, breathes and feeds off of the analytics, able to meticulously scrutinize sales copy, tightly twist and concoct high-converting offers, and pick apart the resultant traffic until he’s created a proverbial cash machine.
As each cash machine comes online, he adds to an army of money-on-autopilot systems that are constantly enriching his vast and ever-growing digital empire while he sleeps. Yes, this is the stuff of legends. This is what dreams are made of. This is what draws in those reluctant 9-to-5’ers who envision a life lived according to their own means, one beyond all the corporate red-tape and bureaucracies of careerism.
As someone who’s well-versed and deeply embedded in the online marketing space, I’ve been drawn to Brunson’s drawl for some time now. What makes the man so alluring is his ability to be so transparent and his willingness to help those in a crowded space filled with cheerleaders tooting their own horns, trying to pitch you the latest dazzling make-money system or fad weight-loss diet.
In this field filled with one-hit wonders and smoke-and-mirror shows, a person like Brunson stands out. In fact, anyone in any industry who works to add value first and foremost will rise to the top. And that’s precisely what Brunson has always aimed to do — to add value to the lives of entrepreneurs looking to untether the cord from a full-time job that has them at the mercy of their corporate overlords.
The Early Days
Take one quick look at Brunson, and what you’ll discover behind the boyish good looks and youthful demeanor, is a seasoned veteran in the internet marketing industry, able to command an army of wannabe entrepreneurs looking to enter into a space that will allow them to make money online and live a carefree lifestyle that involves the freedom to travel the world, earning an income at their will no matter where they might be on this planet.
I’ll confess. I’ve been drawn into Brunson’s hypnotizing webinars and well-place ads that beckon millions to join and salute his causes. I’ve long heard that voice, which is now a staple on social media sites, even being touted and promoted by the likes of the greats such as Anthony Robbins, Frank Kern and many others.
However, Brunson’s earliest days — we’re talking a decade prior to the time when ClickFunnels even had become a thought in his mind — were wrought with difficulties. He knew he needed to leverage the power of this thing called the internet, but just didn’t know quite how he was going to do it.
In a USA Today and Amazon best-selling book released several years back entitled, Dot Com Secrets, Brunson broke down his earliest frustrations with these so-called internet businesses. He had always been fascinated with advertisements, and he would intensively study all the sales copy on ads that would arrive through direct mail at his home and on late-night infomercials, to understand how the best offers were structured.
He was a tinker. Always trying to figure things out. But in one of his earliest businesses, Brunson explains to me that things didn’t go quite as planned. Back in 2002, while still attending Boise State, and as a married newlywed, Brunson’s desires to make money online led him to launching a business that landed him in hot water.
At the time, pagers were the big thing. Everyone had a pager. Which got Brunson thinking. He decided to build a DIY screen projector for the wall. The parts cost him $10 and he knew he could sell it for $40. He printed out a bunch of flyers and started placing them on cars with his brother until campus security caught him and shut down his venture.
However, it had worked. His pager was ringing off the hook. Each time it went off, he knew he had made another $40. That got him thinking further. Why not create a small booklet that would teach people how they could make $40 every time their pager rang? The lightbulbs were going off in his mind and he knew he had a bright idea.
He decided to print out 10 copies at his local Kinko’s and he created a small website with a little PayPal purchase button. Then, in order to reach out to the masses, he picked up a DVD of one million “spam-free” email addresses and crafted an email to sell his guide on how anyone could make $40 every time their page went off. He thought it was brilliant.
The night before he sent out his massive email blast, back when dial-up modems were still commonplace, Brunson told his wife not to worry about anything. They were going to be rich. And he assured his wife that she was going to be able to quit her job and that all their money problems would be solved. Before going to bed, he setup the system and the emails started going off one by one. It ran the entire night.
In the morning, his wife needed to make a phone call, so he needed to disconnect the internet since it was run over the phone. As soon as it was disconnected his phone rang. It was his ISP. The man on the other end was screaming at Brunson, telling him about all the complaints they had received and they had tracked those emails to his internet account.
Brunson swore they were spam-free email addresses. But that didn’t matter. His internet was effectively cut off, leaving him crippled and unable to get back online. He couldn’t check his email or do anything on the internet. Brunson slipped into a depression and told his wife not to quit her day job just yet.
Later that day, he headed to the library to check his messages. Little did he know that his experiment had worked. Although his ISP shut down his account, there were 30 orders for his booklet and money sitting in his PayPal account. That’s when Brunson knew he was onto something.