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Shawn and I have been discussing the idea of this course since October 2018. “You create the course,” I said, “and I’ll publish it under our TLB-brand.”
This was initially over email. Shawn’s response was almost immediate — an enthusiastic, “yes!”
But months went by without any real progress. When I finally checked in for a status report, Shawn explained his resistance:
“You’ve set the bar impossibly high with SOI & ARM,” he said, “ARM redefined email marketing — it’s the gold standard. SOI did the same — how the hell am I supposed to live up to that?!”
[Several months later.]
Shawn emails me:
“I shared some of my ideas about paid traffic with Todd Brown’s Top One mastermind…”
The bugger likes to open loop me. So I replied, “…and?”
“I won the Million Dollar Power Hour for best marketing idea. I’m starting to feel pretty good about this.”
[Several months later.]
Shawn: “I presented those ideas to John Carlton’s Platinum Mastermind Group…”
(The open looping game never gets old with Shawn.)
Shawn: “… incredible response … I got [unnamed enormous direct response company] as a client … lots of great feedback … I’m feeling really good about this.”
[Several months later.]
Shawn: “Remember that guy I told you about who heard my presentation and implemented the ideas? He pulled me aside last week and told me he doubled his cost per acquisition…”
Me: “Ouch! …”
Shawn: “Right. But that wasn’t the punchline. He increased his average order value by 8x!“
On and on it went, month after month, example after example. And now, here we are — both of us 100% “all in” — or, in Derek Sivers’ terminology, we can finally say “HELL YEAH!”
Below is Shawn’s Traffic Manifesto.
(I’ll append more content and info to this page over the next week.)
Paid Traffic Manifesto
What you’re about to read was eighteen months (and twenty-one years) in the making. It started as a long conversation between two friends, and evolved day by day, month by month, into a personal and professional calling.
I have shared these ideas with colleagues and clients, refined them with razor-sharp marketers in exclusive groups and in intensely demanding boardrooms, and I have implemented strategies based on these ideas on behalf of clients generating thousands of dollars in revenue, as well as clients generating hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue.
Others have implemented these ideas as well, and their feedback has been consistent, and overwhelming. Simply put, these ideas work.
Now I’d like to share them with you.
Before I do that, I want to give you some context so you understand my perspective. “Where you stand depends on where you sit,” as the saying goes.
I have owned a digital marketing agency for twenty-one years, worked with nearly two-hundred clients, completed more than 650 projects, managed thousands of campaigns, spent many tens of millions of dollars on Google, Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and other ad networks, and worked with some of the most demanding clients in the most competitive business categories in the world.
I’ve spent tens of thousands of hours thinking deeply about my craft and developing mental models and frameworks to further improve my understanding (and results), and I have had countless conversations with some of the most capable marketers, strategists, writers, and thinkers in my field.
More importantly, I’m just like you. I’m a creative professional, marketer, and business owner who is 100% responsible for the stability and growth of my business. I’ve faced the same professional challenges you have, and I’m certain we have shared similar struggles.
Experience has led me to the conclusion that there are a small number of simple truths in any endeavor that really matter, and respecting those truths is the difference between success and failure.
Here are seven simple business and marketing truths I’ve found particularly powerful.
Simple Truth #1 — High-Quality Traffic is the Lifeblood of Any Business
At its core, a business is a system that generates revenue and income by combining qualified prospects with an offer that converts those prospects into paying customers. No matter how great the offer, how well-written the copy, how extreme the value, if no one ever sees it there’s no chance it’ll succeed.
Value, wealth, opportunity, and personal freedom emerge from the ROI-positive combination of traffic + conversion.
Simple Truth #2 — There’s No Such Thing as ‘free traffic’
There are lots of ways to acquire traffic. Broadly speaking, there’s organic traffic, affiliate traffic, and paid traffic.
I don’t like the term ‘paid traffic’ because it implies the other options are free. They’re not. The method of payment is just different. Instead of paying mostly with time, energy, and attention — all of which are finite resources — I prefer to pay for traffic with money which, under the right circumstances, is effectively limitless.
How can money be ‘effectively limitless’?
Here’s a simple example. If you create a system where it costs you $10 to acquire a customer, the average value of a customer’s first purchase is $15, and over an average customer’s lifetime you’ll earn an additional $250, how many customers can you afford to purchase?
All of them.
My friend Todd Brown describes this best. “A typical entrepreneur gets a customer to make a sale. A smart entrepreneur makes a sale to get a customer.”
Simple Truth #3 — Paid Traffic Gives Us What We All Desire Most — Control
Let’s be very clear about what we all really want. As business owners, creative professionals, and marketers, we need to create awareness, generate leads, make sales, fulfill our obligations to our clients and customers, and make a profit that keeps us in business.
That’s what we need.
But, what we really want — more than anything — is a sense of control. We want to know that our business results (and our income) are stable, predictable, and scalable. That next month will be better than this month. That there’s opportunity to increase the value we contribute to the world, expand our horizons, our relationships, and our income.
Just for a moment I want you to imagine what it would feel like to experience that. What if you knew — really knew — that you could thrive month after month, year after year? Later I’m going to explain what it takes to get there.
Simple Truth #4 — The Rules Of The Paid Traffic Game Have Changed
The old model for paid traffic — still widely used today — was based on cheap traffic and pliable traffic platforms that allowed aggressive tactics, over the top messaging, and shady business models. If an advertising account was shut down, no big deal — just move on and open a new one and you were back in business.
The old model was based on low-cost and high-volume. The answer to every traffic question was always “more.”
The new reality is that traffic is expensive, prospects are increasingly skeptical, and the biggest traffic platforms (Google, YouTube, and Facebook) are shutting down entire business models and categories, while significantly limiting the tone and content of messaging.
The new model is based on high-quality and lower-volume. Now the answer to every traffic question is “better.”
The old model’s days are numbered. The future belongs to those who understand the implications of this new reality and change their strategies accordingly.
Simple Truth #5 — The Way To Win Is To Avoid Losing
Warren Buffett and his partner Charlie Munger are arguably two of the world’s greatest investors and sharpest analytical minds. Decade after decade they’ve been asked about the secrets to their success, and they’ve consistently attributed that success to avoiding dumb mistakes rather than pursuing innovation.
“It is remarkable how much long-term advantage people like us have gotten by trying to be consistently not stupid, instead of trying to be very intelligent.” — Charlie Munger
In my experience, this insight is universally true. The overwhelming majority of benefit I have provided to my clients over the past two decades has come from showing them how to systematically avoid costly, performance-crushing mistakes.
A recent, profound example:
‘Client X’ was spending $200,000/month on Google Ads, of which $140,000 was objectively, demonstrably waste. Overall ROI was positive and no one wanted to turn off something that, on balance, was working. However, a minority of spend was driving the results and, within weeks, well over a million dollars in wasted ad spend was returned to the bottom line (while simultaneously improving overall performance).
That’s the power of avoiding big mistakes.
Every advertising platform has unique ways to make costly mistakes, and some of those mistakes are recommended as “best practices” because they drive significant revenue to the platform. If I do nothing else, let me help you identify and avoid those costly mistakes.
Simple Truth #6 — Your Prospects Are Far More Valuable Than You Realize
In October 2019 I had an opportunity to sit across from legendary marketer Dean Jackson at a speakers’ dinner prior to Kevin Rogers’ Copy Chief Live.
Dean explained to me that he had analyzed many of his clients’ businesses and found that all of them had something in common. When sales were calculated over time, 15% of sales occurred in the first ninety days after acquiring the lead, and the remaining 85% of sales followed over eighteen months.
“Think about that”, he said. “There’s 4x the revenue opportunity after ninety days.”
The implications of that analysis are staggering. Marketing is a long game and a clear understanding of the financial incentives tells us that we should be over-investing in long-term relationships with our prospects. That investment begins with where and how we acquire our audience.
Simple Truth #7 — There’s Only One Thing To Do To Improve Your Results
When we accept that our businesses are systems, we realize that they’re subject to the insights of systems theory. Perhaps the most profound insight is this one, from Eli Goldratt’s Theory of Constraints: the only way to increase the throughput of a system is to improve the performance of its weakest link.
In Goldratt’s terminology, we need to focus on improving the system optimum, not improving local optima. Improve the whole, don’t tinker with the parts.
In layman’s terms, that means there’s always one — and only one — place to focus our attention to improve our results. We just need to know where and how to look, and then act accordingly.
When we internalize these simple truths and then begin to act on them, we tap into the most powerful force in the universe — leverage. Our measuring stick becomes progress instead of effort — relentless forward motion, not spinning in circles.
That leads to the obvious question — how do we do that? I’m glad you asked…
André has created the definitive guides to customer acquisition (Sphere of Influence) and customer conversion (AutoResponder Madness). He set the bar impossibly high, which is why this announcement has been eighteen months in the making.
Beginning in early April, I’m going to lead a cohort of people through an eight-week hands-on paid traffic training we’re calling The Traffic Engine.
We’ll start with core concepts, timeless foundational principles, and a behind-the-scenes look at the new reality of paid traffic and digital marketing.
Then we’ll apply those concepts and principles to create retargeting and prospecting campaigns on Google Ads (including search and the Google Display Network) and Facebook. There will be live Q&A calls with me, in-depth hot seats, and performance/metrics review.
Additional options will be available for freelancers and agency professionals who want to implement these ideas for their clients. This is a limited time offer (available from April 1-7).
A course outline, pricing, and other information will be available here beginning on April 1.
My goal for this course is simple — to externalize and share my decades of experience with a group of people who can multiply its value far beyond anything I could ever do alone by building ‘traffic engines’ for their own businesses (or learning how to help others do the same).
And, in the spirit of transparency, I have a selfish reason as well. Teaching is the ultimate forcing mechanism for me — it requires depth of thought and insight to pressure-test my ideas, explain them clearly, and distill them into actionable insights. For years I’ve done that individually with clients and now I’m looking forward to doing that with a motivated group of early adopters.
— Shawn Twing (March 22, 2020)
- Tue (Mar 24, 2020) — TTE: American Airlines (Email 1)
- Wed (Mar 25, 2020) — TTE: Where do I start? (Email 2)
- Thu (Mar 26, 2020) — TTE: Structure + Tip (Email 3)
- Fri (Mar 27, 2020) — TTE: Pricing Framework (Email 4)
- Mon (Mar 30, 2020) — TTE: Ladybug Marketing Effect (Email 5) [w/ video presentation]
- Tue (Mar 31, 2020) — TTE: Freeze Frame (Email 6)
- Wed (Apr 1, 2020) — CART OPENED
- Fri (Apr 3, 2020) — TTE: Testing Framework (Email 7)
- Sun (Apr 5, 2020) — TTE: Iterate to Success (Email 8)
- Mon (Apr 6, 2020) — TTE: Just One Person (Email 9)
- Tue (Apr 7, 2020) — CART CLOSED at 11:59pm Pacific Time — TTE: Resources (Email 10)
Questions & Answers
1.) I don’t have an offer/product — I’m an affiliate — will TTE still be relevant for me?
I answered this question partly in Email 2.
TTE will be relevant / actionable for any business that benefits from monetizing attention with paid traffic, including affiliate offers. However, I am absolutely not an affiliate marketing specialist so it’s unlikely that my examples will be specific to those needs.
2.) How will TTE differ from the traffic module in SOI?
The Traffic Engine will be a complete update (and expansion of) the paid traffic content in SOI. Much has changed since that content was written, and TTE will reflect my best, most current thinking.
In particular, Google and Facebook have become far more strict with advertisers, and ad costs have increased by orders of magnitude. The downstream consequences of those two factors are profound and a lot of what I’ll be covering in TTE will be in response to that new reality.
This first TTE cohort also will have live Q&A calls, hot-seats, and other direct interaction with me.
Finally, the paid traffic content for SOI was specific to that methodology. The Traffic Engine is approach-agnostic, meaning it’ll inform how you think about lead generation, direct-to-offer, and other advertising models. And, of course, it’s informed by the principles that make SOI and ARM great.
3.) Because Google and FB change their platforms so often, will this course still be relevant an in year?
This is not a ‘flavor of the day’ tactics-based training. Instead, it’s focused on timeless principles that inform implementation. I expect some of the ‘which button do I push?’ details will change over time (and those will be updated), but the focus is on the high-leverage strategies that drive the action, not the ‘in the weeds’ details.
However, approximately 60% of course content will be implementation and I am expecting those recommendations to be largely durable over time (and updated as necessary).
4.) I’m new to paid traffic (never done it before) — will the course be too advanced for me?
I would suggest reading the free 10-part blog series I wrote last month. If that feels like it’s too complicated, that’s probably a good indicator The Traffic Engine won’t be a good fit. (In that case, I would recommend studying that material and asking questions in the comments which I’ll continue to answer.)
On the other hand, if that content and style resonates with you, I would expect The Traffic Engine will be accessible to you. I’ll go into much greater depth in the course, but my approach to distilling / simplifying ideas so they’re accessible will be the same.
5.) I’ve been driving paid traffic for years — it’s our primary source of leads — will I learn anything I don’t already know?
I’m 100% convinced André added this question as a curveball knowing how much I hate to discuss my background and experience.
The short answer is yes — even if you’ve been running traffic for a long time I am confident that you’ll get a lot of value from The Traffic Engine. In fact, in my experience, the greater the ad spend the greater the impact from these ideas because results multiply.
I say this with confidence (and humility) because I’ve shared these ideas and principles with some of the best marketers in the world in the most competitive markets and I have not yet experienced anyone yawn and tell me they knew it all already or couldn’t immediately see 10+ ways to benefit.
6.) What format will this course be? Text, video, live calls, etc?
Text, screencasts, live Q&A and hot-seat calls over Zoom, recorded interviews, links to resources (videos, articles, tools, etc.). There is a very, very, very slim chance that I will use video too (the thought of seeing myself on video is so horrifying, however, that I doubt it).
Please continue to ask questions in the comments below, and share any insights you’ve had so far during this campaign.
7.) Is there a payment plan?
For this early adopter enrollment for TTE, no.
I want to be very clear that you should not sign up for The Traffic Engine if it’s going to be a stretch financially. André and I would much rather have you keep the $375 to spend on paid traffic (and using the free paid traffic training as a guide).
If you are interested in The Traffic Engine, please remember this is about paid traffic which means you’ll want some budget available to buy traffic.
As much as we’d love to have you in the course, it’s far more important that you make decisions in your own best interest. The Traffic Engine will be available again later this year, so please do not feel like you’re going to miss an opportunity. We’ll be here when you’re ready.
8.) What are the prerequisites for this course? What do I need to have/know before being able to apply what TTE teaches?
There are no formal prerequisites for The Traffic Engine. However, here are a few guidelines that may be useful:
- First, read the free 10-part paid traffic training and The Traffic Engine Manifesto.
- Second, email #2 — Where Do I Start? — explains how to get the most out of the training.
- Third, if you still have questions about your specific situation, please ask a question in the comments.
9.) How much should I plan for a budget for paid traffic?
I’ve answered this question in the comments section as well (generally more specific to the individual’s situation).
In general, there is no right answer to this question. The overall goal of paid traffic is to be revenue neutral (customers for free) or revenue positive as quickly as possible. Initially, however, during testing and iterating, there’s no way to know when that will happen.
Without knowing specifics, it’s hard to estimate.
If you’re planning on testing ideas, $10 – $25/day is a decent budget. The point of that testing would be to get a result, so this would not be ongoing if it’s not working. Test, iterate, test again — that’s how the process works.
As we see positive results, we would allocate more money to ad spend, knowing that we would be offsetting that spend with sales. Part of The Traffic Engine training is calculating these numbers so you know when to spend, when not to spend, and how much to spend.
Course Outline & Schedule
The Traffic Engine core training is an eight-week, ten-module* course that teaches the fundamentals of successful paid traffic campaigns on Google Ads and Facebook, including prospecting and retargeting.
The emphasis of the course is learning effective, high-leverage strategies first (weeks one and two), and then implementing those strategies to create awareness, test offers, and gain customers with Google Ads search (weeks three and four), and Facebook (weeks five and six).
Week-seven will focus on maximizing revenue from existing traffic with Google Display Network and Facebook retargeting.
(To ensure that everyone is on the same page we are going to start with prospecting first, then add retargeting, which is different from the advice I gave on the 10-day free traffic training which I want to acknowledge.)
Week-eight will discuss optimization and scale.
The goal for the course is for participants to have at least one Google search prospecting campaign, one Facebook prospecting campaign, and GDN and Facebook retargeting campaigns created and driving traffic.
Other, related goals include:
- The most important mistakes to avoid on each platform.
- The critical factors that drive performance on each platform.
- The few metrics that matter and how to calculate those metrics using free tools (e.g., Google Analytics, Google Sheets).
- Strategies for service offers, ecommerce, digital offers, lead generation, and co-created offers.
- Strategies specific to Sphere of Influence and Autoresponder Madness.
- Testing strategies to inform offer messaging.
- Frameworks and tools I use for idea generation and capture, content creation, reporting, and more.
- (And a lot more I’m sure I’m forgetting…)
This first live cohort will include four Q&A / hot-seat calls with me. Exact dates have not yet been determined. However, I’ve included the weeks when each call will appear in the outline below.
(Q&A / hot-seat calls will be recorded and made available in the learning area.)
Content will remain accessible past week eight, and participants will have access to all future course updates as those are made available.
Each module will have comments to ask questions which I’ll answer regularly throughout the first eight weeks, then less frequently (but consistently) after that.
Course content will be a mix of written modules, screencasts, possibly video, and links to third-party resources I believe are valuable.
There’s also an upgrade version specifically for freelancers, agencies, and creative professionals who want to use The Traffic Engine for client work.
(The upgraded content appears below the core course schedule.)
[*I may decide to add additional content. If that were to happen, I’ll make sure that content is created within the eight-week timeframe.]
- Bonus: Module 0 — The 30,000′ View of The Traffic Engine (Tuesday, April 7).
- Core Module 1: Friday, Understanding Current Reality (April 10).
- Core Module 2: Friday, Paid Traffic Principles (April 17).
- Q&A Call #1
- Bonus Module: Audience and Offer Masterclass
- Core Module 3: Getting Started with Google Ads (Search) — Creating a Campaign (Friday, April 24).
- Core Module 4: Google Ads (Search) — Metrics and Performance (Friday, May 1).
- Q&A Call #2
- Core Module 5: Getting Started With Facebook (Prospecting) — Creating a Campaign (Friday, May 8).
- Core Module 6: Facebook — Metrics and Performance (Friday, May 15).
- Bonus: Module 6.5 — Facebook Offer and Messaging Testing Framework (Friday, May 15).
- Q&A Call #3
- Core Module 7: Retargeting — Google Display Network + Facebook (Friday, May 22).
- Core Module 8: Ongoing Optimization and Scale (Friday, May 29).
- Q&A Call #4
Client-Services Upgrade (Add-On)
The following content is specific to the needs of freelancers, agencies, and creative professionals who will use The Traffic Engine on behalf of clients. This is in addition to the core training above.
- Client-Services Module 1: Strategies for Finding and Working with Paid Traffic Clients (Google Ads and Facebook) — April 17.
- Client-Services Module 2: Common Problems and Solutions (Including Pricing, Reporting, Managing Client Expectations and Communications) — May 1.
- Client-Services Q&A / Hot-seat Call #1.
- Client-Services Module 3: Getting Results for Clients Using The Traffic Engine (Prospecting and Retargeting) — May 15.
- Client-Services Module 4: Growing Your Business and Your Clients’ Businesses (How to Think About Scale) — May 29.
- Client-Services Q&A / Hot-seat Call #2.
The client-services upgrade also will include a curated list of additional resources (articles, books, idea summaries, videos, etc.) specific to working with clients.