Why Big Marketers Are Dying Off, And Little Guys Can Win

An idea hit me. Admittedly, its gone through my mind before. It is super-basic, yet I see so many people online just forgetting.

See, in this whole blogger market, I’m not exactly the biggest fish in the pond. My list size is respectable, but not nearly as big as some of the folks like Darren or Brian (from CopyBlogger). My traffic is nothing to complain about, but people like Pat Flynn are far surpassing me.

But, generally, I’ve got a pretty tight-knit bunch of readers. 🙂 Every time that little voice in my head wonders if I’m doing enough, I get people who tell me they open my emails religiously.

  • Stu McLaren says:

    Great post David.

    It always surprises me how “common sense” isn’t so “common” when it comes to building relationships with ones readers.

    I think as long as people stay focused on your comment “our readers are PEOPLE” we’ll be fine.

    • David Risley says:

      Yeah, pretty much. 🙂

      • Luca Lazzari says:

        Great post: I find it especially encouraging for us, the beginners. This online universe is really intimidating, but knowing that even “little guys” can have some chance is so gooooood….
        In particular after watching a video, some days ago, in which seems that Google will pay attention only to the big corporations in the near future, intentionally strangling all the dwarves entrepreneurs!

  • Tina says:

    Spot on David. Thanks!

  • Shane says:

    Now this is one damn fine post Dave and it’s also why I respect you so much….because you haven’t forgotten about loyalty.

    The other issue beyond loyalty is a lack of drive to bring in new readers and a lack of quality with their products.

    Solve immediate needs we have, treat people like real humans, be a real human, tell real stories from experience and you get loyalty 🙂

  • Ethan S says:

    This is one of the best things you can do. It can also be used to understand the objections your leads are having to buying your products. You can then talk to each lead individually and address their objections specifically.

    Of course, after you grow to a certain size, it becomes very hard to personally interact with everyone, which I suppose, is when you can have a VIP or members only area where people pay for direct access to you like you have discussed.

  • Will Kriski says:

    At the end of the day you need to be selling something people are motivated to buy. I ask questions, reply to all tweets, FB comments, blog comments, forum posts, youtube comments and still barely sell any guitar lesson products. Youtube views are 1.5 million with over 4 thousand subscribers and 4300 fans on FB – these stats are essentially meaningless based on actual results.

    • Kev Kaye says:

      I’m surprised you aren’t happy with your results considering those numbers. I’d be interested to see how you have things structured.  It might be that you need to make a few simple adjustments to turn up the notch on sales. 

    • David Risley says:

      Yeah, you don’t have a numbers issue, you have a marketing issue. What you’re offering and/or the way it is being pitched just isn’t connecting. My guess is that you’ve not properly identified what it is they really want. You also have some design/conversion issues you could rework on your site.

  • Communication is always good but some of this can depend on your niche.  My niche, which is kind of a combination of lifestyle/self-help/tech has tech people who a notoriously non-responsive and lifestyle/self-help which (I believe) are less so.  It’s good to reach out, hopefully they will reach back.

    • David Risley says:

      I see the same over on PCMech, but you CAN get them to respond in ways other than blog comments. Try asking them to reply to emails to your list. Show them HOW to comment on the blog. 

      People are people. I’m not so sure one can write off a niche by saying those people don’t talk. They do… its just a matter of motivation.

      • Chuck Bartok says:

        It has been said elsewhere in the comment section, your thoughts and expression are valuable to any and all Marketers and Salesmen.
        I was appalled coming on line at the methods espoused and even more so attending some of the High Level Events.
        There was and still is MONEY to be made using the non-personal tactics, but these popor peopel have to keep grinding out new crap.
        Our businesses and those of my clients have grown over past 55 years through the Philosophy of People buy form People, and always Deliver more REAL value than ever received in Cash Value.
        It has has worked off-line for Centuries and is really working On-line.
        On-Line clients are enjoying steady growth and huge retention

      • Gotta build the list. I feel like the guy from the Dunkin Donuts commercials “Have to make the doughnuts”. I understand and agree with your point. I have to try to be less cynical. Nice webinar last night by the way. If anyone here wants some great info and business tips join David’s Inner Circle, definitely worth it. 

    • Monte says:

      Chrisopher, you hit the proverbial nail on the head about the tech niches.For the blog I always ask a question or two in the article and sometimes at the end, response rate is near zero…

      In my Newsletter and the small publications I give away every month I also ask for feed back, heck the two surveys I have done since I started giving away a monthly ‘Guide’ (smaller and less intense than a checklist to fix a given computer issue) the open rate was the highest I have ever had at 87% but I only got a 3% response rate.

      Yup, them tech people are very closed mouthed, I know they have opinions but I think they are gun shy from being trolled in some forums.

      Makes it hard to do a 2-way commnication but I ain’t givin’ up!


      • Monte,
        Thanks for the support but I don’t want my opinion on tech blog readers to become an excuse for inaction (for me anyway).  David makes some good points in his previous reply to me and I agree that it does work, it just takes time and effort in helping people personally to engender that interactivity.

        I noticed in looking at your website that comments are turned off in many of your posts. Any thoughts on why?

      • David Risley says:

        Monte, what I’ve found reliably gets them going on PCMech is to hit on a touchy topic for techies. Mac versus PC is always a good one. 🙂 Get them to give opinions on “versus” topics… people love that stuff.

  • Kev Kaye says:

    I agree with you David, acknowledging that we’re humans, marketing to humans is a major shift in the way things need to be done online.  Proof of that change is in what Frank Kern used to teach.  He would openly recommend you “hide” behind your email address, be inaccessible and interact with customers AS LITTLE as possible.  He’s since changed his stance on that, but things are a bit different now huh?

    • David Risley says:

      Frank is a brilliant guy, but also a bit of a poster-child for the big-time marketer whose now moving onto other things. Frank doesn’t really do much these days except for high-end consulting and behind-the-scenes stuff, from what I gather.

      But, Frank is really good at understanding a market. So, I’m quite sure he sees what’s happening here.

      • Kev Kaye says:

        I agree, Frank is great at what he does. I know he is or was doing a lot for Tony Robbins these days. From what Robbins has been putting out marketing wise, I see a touch of Kern magic in there.  

  • Dave Doolin says:

    I saved a bunch of those emails after the last several years, for my electronic swipe file.

    Eben is pitching again. His stuff is pretty good, but with the perspective of experience I can now say I’m not after the same customers he is marketing to.  

    These guys all go after starving crowds, offering hamburgers. Great analogy, and Halbert (or whoever) was a genius for that.

    But it’s a Major League “home run” strategy, and I have enough trouble consistently making base hits in the JV. So I’m putting more time into the batting cage, as it were.

  • Hey David,

    You are so right and it is so easy to get into the I speak you listen mind frame. Especially in the “make money” type of niches because it is only a passion for people for a short amount of time.

    It seems to be easier for me to stay in a two way conversation in other niches were there is a passion that does not fizzle out so quickly.

    But man… grat post

  • You are always personal and will tell it like it is. You have a good heart and everyone I send your post to respects what you put out there. This is a great post and the bottom line really says to me is to exhibit love ( I know I used the “L” word) and not to be stuck on yourself. Thanks again David.

  • Srinivas Rao says:


    This is really spot on stuff. I think the nice thing about seeing somebody like you is that we know we can achieve great success without massive numbers. Like you said you’ve got an audience that is really engaged. Part of why I don’t comment on some of the really big blogs is because nobody responds and it’s impossible to build a relationship with the authors. One thing I did recently was create a separate email list specifically for people who bought my ebook, so I can communicate with them on a regular basis. While only 6 people signed up for it out of my 20+ customers, I know that I can still engage with that group and learn a ton from interacting with them. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Wait, you made a comment and didn’t mention surfing?! What is the world coming to?! 😉  Just playing, Srini. I’m a big proponent of marketing to existing customers in a way that makes them feel special – they’re the hottest leads you’re ever going to get. When I created the sign up for Clients + Cash, I asked buyers to tell me what their favorite drink is. You bet your ass they’ll be getting something in the mail from me soon. 🙂 

    • David Risley says:

      Yeah, you can really do the same with your general list, too. Doesn’t have to be just for customers.

  • Susanfrench says:


     I knew there was a reason I was in love with you (I  hope you’re blushing).  What a great post!  You put your finger precisely on the pulse of why I 1) always read your posts, 2) I have learned to trust what you say, 3) that you listen and reply and 4) always feel myself to be in a dialogue.
    I so very much appreciate that you share of yourself so openly while at the same time managing to to make your blog about us.

    Yes I am one of your tightly knit loyalists.

    Susan French

  • Djones says:

    I am a newbie to this whole Internet Marketing “Game” however been on the Internet since 1998.  Have been reseaching Click-Bank and saw Nada for products to promote.  I too have been collecting all the big marketer stuff because some of it is very good…. however as everyone states “The game is changing”

    Mark Marzinzik

  • Mel says:

    Very nice post, David.  Reminded me that I, too, need to make more effort towards 2-way communication with my list.

  • Christian says:

    The thing about high touch marketing is that having a big list is really kind of irrelevant. You’re right this is kind of common sense, but it’s a great message because it seems to be something that never becomes a popular concept. 

    You simply don’t need a big list. You just really do not need half a million visitors to your blog every month to make great living. When you really get to know people, you can create offers which truly hit home and are almost impossible to ignore. 

    Importantly, the $2k product launch model you mention has kind of been on the way out for a long time. Wouldn’t you agree? The fact is that kind of business model is just old school, impersonal push marketing. Those offers are sent out to hundreds of thousands of people and just don’t convert well.

    • David Risley says:

      Well, I don’t think the product launch is going anywhere. The whole PLF thing is based on solid marketing which has been around long before the Internet. That said, I think people were playing copycat and getting insanely uncreative about it. 

      And besides the method of launch, yes… I do think the $2K price point is going the way of the dodo. At least in internet marketing.

  • Anonymous says:

    Agreed, D-man. 

  • krissy knox says:

    @David, I always open your emails/posts when I have time.  There are many emails I don’t open. They are from marketers who have nothing to offer, and are just begging me. I am not saying it is wrong to market, of course not. Market just means sell — and there is absolutely nothing wrong with this!  But you have so much to offer us besides pushing an offer  in our face.  You have truly helped me through the past year — through your blogs, through ustream, through youtube, your blogs, your courses, answering questions, making yourself available, etc.  I know time is money, but you do what you can, balancing helping and making money.  Those who are just in it for the money — who just want to “make millions but not work” — will soon be gone.  Good ones like you will stick around and make money. God bless you.

    krissy knox
    follow on twitter http://twitter.com/krissyknox please note my twitter name has changed, thank you!

    • David Risley says:

      Thanks. 🙂

      Actually, I think some of those guys who make millions work their asses off. I don’t take anything from them on that front. I just think they forget to keep it real sometimes. Once they get a taste for those millions, its like crack… and all they do is chase more of it and forget that sometimes just putting out good stuff without a price tag is a good thing to do.

  • Gotta say, I think you “get it”! Met you at a Tweetup YEARS ago in Tampa Florida and have watched and read for YEARS! Your content is great, your passion is evident and you let your humanity show. Thank you.

  • Hey David, Excellent post. I love reading your stuff and I always agree with what you have to say. When it comes to online marketing it is no different than face to face marketing, you have to build a relationship with the people you are trying to market too.
    Keep up the positive good work my man, you are my best mentor in online social marketing.

    Tom Johnson

  • “They just kept pushing $2K products. And it worked… until it didn’t work anymore.” 

    As you know Dave, I reply to your emails sometimes, and over the years (since 2008 I think) your list is one of the few I have stuck with…. because your no bullsh*t approach and willingness to share knowledge exceeds what other authorities in this market give me. Simple.

  • Anonymous says:

    Just shared on Facebook. Great article! Made me feel so much better about my piddly list!

  • You’re right that people tend to forget. It’s easy to just look at the data and forget what’s underneath. I feel like Gary V’s got his finger on the pulse of this, and described it really well when he said that we’re actually going back to the days of the small town… where everyone remembers what you do, and if all you do is promote 2k programs without as much as a hello and thank you, then they’ll go somewhere else.

  • There is nothing powerful than a two way communication. People won’t feel respected or “special” when the marketer just pushes stuff one way. And sadly, most requests (call to actions) to subscribe promise to offer quality and tell them that their subscribers are special. Thanks for making a great point David.

  • Melvin says:

    This is so true Dave. Like you, one thing that I’m proud of is I reply to emails. And these are emails that are mostly replies from my newsletters so although its impossible to reply to all of them, I do reply to MOST.

    I hate to mention names but guys like Frank Kern don’t do it and you’re spot on right. I mean I just see it absurd that they keep on pushing products that are so expensive yet when someone emails them back to ask questions and whatnot, they don’t reply.

    I’m thinking that maybe they’re relying too much on being structured that they don’t care anymore about anything that comes nowhere from those structures that they built. I know automating stuff is cool but sadly its just impossible to automate everything.

  • James Pruitt says:

    One thing that I always found funny is these big name marketers talking about engagement in their materials, but they wouldn’t do it themselves. They think of one way communication as engagement.

    I have always said relationships are the key to success in this business, and that takes work both ways to build.

  • Grady Pruitt says:

    Thanks, David!  As a relatively new marketer/blogger myself, I’ve been trying to concentrate on building relationships myself  These tips will go a long way to helping me out! 

    And Stu, my dad always said “If sense was common, everyone would have it.”

  • Vikk Simmons says:

    Having been in the blogosphere before it was the blogosphere, I’ve watched a lot of people and read a lot of pitches. I can’t point to anyone who has fully captured my attention and interest for as long as you have, David. 

    Count me as one who always opens your emails and who generally responds to much of what you are suggesting, pointing to, and offering. Why? For many of the reasons others have said. Mostly, it’s because you offer timely, relevant information that generally does not grow old and dated. Your commonsense solutions offered in BogMasters Club are as helpful today to me as they were more than a year ago. And I continue to use and read and watch to learn. 

    But another really important reason is because I can reach out and talk to you. You try to make yourself available in a variety of ways and that’s helpful to someone like me who struggles with the technological stuff. You listen and reply directly to the problems. I learn by listening to your interaction with others. 

    You may not be in the millions–yet. But you are definitely doing something very, very right. You have an engaged, committed audience who are also participants in the Risley experiment. 🙂 And I’m glad to be along for the ride.  

  • Hi Dave-
    As always, I’m stealing more ideas from your great stuff tonight. However, you are right on with your comment about listening. I can’t tell you how many prospects have leaned my way due to my personal follow up and listening to their struggles.

    Throw in a few ideas of my own how to resolve their issues and suddenly something happens. It’s called a partnership.

    Taking orders is one thing. But getting there is an entirely different beast. One that requires truly understanding what your prospects need to grow their businesses.

    Thanks again Dave for your bullet-proof talent and advice.


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