Issue #25

Internet Success Program

Interview With Audri Lanford... An Internet Success! Part 1

[Corey]: What is your background, and what drew you to the Internet?

[Audri]: I started out in academia. I got a Ph.D. in sociology from Stanford University, with a focus on statistics and research methods. I taught, and was involved with cutting edge research at Stanford and at Catholic University.

The background in statistical analysis has served us very well in business. Especially in analyzing trends and usage patterns, which is very useful for our work on the Internet.

[Corey]: Did your husband, Jim, get you into computers?

[Audri]: No, but everyone thinks he did. I actually took my first computer class in high school in the late 1960's. Then in college and grad school I learned to crunch statistics on mainframe computers. This was all before I met Jim.

Sadly, college professors earn almost nothing - in fact, my receptionists have all earned substantially more than I did as a college professor! So, in 1985 I decided to help Jim start Micro Dynamics, Ltd. We were one of the first three document imaging companies. Jim designed our flagship product, Micro Dynamics MARS®, on a napkin.

MD MARS was an amazing system. It allowed companies to scan and store whole warehouses full of paper documents in a very small space. You can retrieve documents with it based on keyword searches, of course. But the most revolutionary aspect of the product was that it was the very first system to let the user retrieve documents based on full text searches.

So in 1986, we had a terrific product - but no idea how to market it.

I'm a fairly quick study, so I decided I had better learn sales and marketing fast. First I looked within the software industry, but frankly, I didn't find much there. Then we broadened the search. I fortunately learned about Jay Abraham in 1988, and finally, in September 1989, I attended Jay Abraham's first $15,000 Protégé seminar.

At the time, that was an unheard of amount for me to spend, but Jay completely guaranteed the results, so I took the chance. It was life transforming for me.

The seminar started on Monday and was one week long. On Wednesday, I called Jim to implement a strategy I had learned. By Friday, we had earned an extra $60,000 in profit. Four times my investment before I left the seminar!

Within a month, we had sold a system (worth over $250,000) to Motorola. We had been trying to sell them this system for two years! Motorola went on to be a worldwide client for many years and they spent millions of dollars with us. They also awarded us the Motorola Customer Excellence Award. That's a very prestigious award, and we were really proud of that.

MDL became one of the fastest growing private companies in America, an Inc. 500 Company. We sold controlling interest to our venture partners in 1993. The company has been sold twice since and went public a year and a half ago.

[Corey]: That's great. So how did you get involved in the Net?

[Audri]: Jim is a technology wizard and has always been on the cutting, (or maybe I should say bleeding ), edge of technology. He had MDL on the Internet in the late 1980's - long before the Web was invented.

I didn't get into the Internet (other than email) until a bit later. After we sold MDL, we took a sabbatical and moved to Carmel, CA. (That's where we had gotten married in 1980.)

I started looking into how the Web could be used by small businesses. My passion is entrepreneurial activity. So, I wanted to see if the Internet made sense for business owners. Almost everyone thought not back then. So, we were among the very first pioneers who saw the beginnings of the promise.

Incidentally, Jim and I both believe that the Internet is still very much at the beginning of this revolution. Whenever someone tells me it's too late (which happens frequently!), I laugh. That reminds me of the head of the Patent and Trademark Office in the mid 1880's who thought that we may as well shut down the PTO since everything had already been invented!

That's where we are today in terms of the Internet. Just at the very, very beginning. There's so much opportunity.

Early on (now in 1994 and 1995) lots of colleagues were asking our advice on putting their businesses on the Net. We started to see so many scams, and so much misinformation and hype, that we got really angry. One week we saw three absurd proposals from Web development companies. One was for a software development company and cost twice their annual revenues!

Jim walked around the house that day ranting and raving. We decided we could do nothing - or do something. So, we decided to start Internet ScamBusters, which has become the #1 publication for Internet fraud. It's our public service.

Phew. Long explanation, but there you are. That's how we got started.

[Corey]: What was your first business online and how many do you have now?

[Audri]: NETrageous was our first online business. We got dragged into it kicking and screaming, because just about all of the Internet marketing information at that time was just scams, and we wanted nothing to do with it. But customers and friends begged us, so we put together a program that was the precursor to our Internet Business Advisory Service.

We then created a separate site for our advisory newsletter, NETrageous Results. We were committed from the beginning to put out the very best Internet marketing newsletter. It is completely results focused… and actionable.

We have a very simple formula: We interview the top people in the business - they must be making at least $100,000 per year from their online efforts - and get them to share their strategies in ways that our subscribers can act on directly. We interviewed Amazon.com long before they went public, for example. It's been very well received. And we're interviewing you this month. :)

[Corey]: Other sites?

[Audri]: We've just launched a new site, and we will be launching another two soon. The one we just launched is called http://www.AskNETrageous.com/ The main feature of this site is our newest email newsletter, AskNETrageous. Our focus is to provide top, real world answers to the most challenging, provocative and tough Internet marketing questions. We'll be taking questions from subscribers and answering the best ones - in depth - each week. We expect this to be very popular.

We're also co-hosting what we are committed to making the most important Internet event of the Millennium with Jay Abraham in January called http://www.abraham-netrageous.com/imc/. (More on that later...)

We've also got a few other sites, like http://www.FreeFurby.com/, which let us do some very interesting testing and allowed us to build a great list of over 130,000 people who gave us fascinating demographic information. We got completed demographic surveys for $0.03 to $0.05 per visitor - which is 95% less than what most people spend to just get visitors!

[Corey]: How did you do that???

[Audri]: Actually, it has been extremely easy. If your subscribers visit the site, they will find a very focused site that has only one purpose - to get people to fill out the questionnaire. About 50% of our visitors do, which is unheard of for a questionnaire that takes three minutes to fill out. We offer an inexpensive prize - a Furby - but it's something people really want. It's a very well constructed questionnaire (if I do say so myself) - the whole site really flows.

16% of our visitors are small business owners, so that's another benefit to us.

This site is a great example of the first step of Permission Marketing. If people haven't read Seth Godin's book by that name, I highly recommend it. It's the best book I've read this year - and I read a lot! Visit http://www.permission.com to sign up for the first four chapters free.

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