TTE: Iterate to Success (Email 8)

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Note: This is an archive of an email from the April 1-7, 2020 launch series of The Traffic Engine (Early Adopter Edition).

Happy Sunday!

Although, I guess this could be a Wednesday or a Friday — it's been weird watching TV where presenters have lost the sense of which day is which.

I'll chime in again after Shawn's piece. I have a story to tell, but it needs the context you'll get below.

Catch you on the other side.

SHAWN: Sun, April 5, 2020

I've been thinking about ideas for a real offer to use as an example during the implementation phase of The Traffic Engine (modules 3 — 7).

Ideally, I want to demonstrate two different approaches with the same offer…

One will be paid traffic to an SOI-style front end followed by an ARM-inspired email sequence that leads to a low-priced ($97) offer.

The other version will be paid traffic straight to the same $97 offer.

(No pressure, right?)

While thinking about this part of the course yesterday, it occurred to me how easily I could make decisions — with the best of intentions — that would make the course much worse for participants.

Let me explain what I mean, and how I intend to avoid those mistakes (which may lead to a spectacularly entertaining disaster).

If you've ever watched a televised cooking show you'll notice something interesting. The host spends the majority of the show making a recipe which is never actually cooked!

Instead, the moment all the prep work is finished, a beautiful, perfect creation appears from the oven.


The assumption is that the host did the exact same work for both recipes and that the results would be the same.

I don't do a lot of cooking, but I'm confident that my creation — following the exact steps the show host used — wouldn't look like what I would see on my TV screen.

Not. Even. Close.


The host has so many subtle advantages that are hard to communicate. The tiny adjustments, better tools, finer ingredients, more consistent oven temperatures — all of those add up.

When the home audience's creations don't match what they have seen on TV, it's easy for them to think that it's somehow their fault.

And that is exactly what I want to avoid with The Traffic Engine.

Let me explain some ways I could create subtle advantages for the example offer, ever so slightly stacking the deck in my favor.

I could:

  • Start working on (and testing ideas for) the offer now to pre-validate the right direction.
  • Leverage my experience and expertise which would add significantly to my offer's credibility.
  • ‘Warm up' ad accounts and audiences.
  • Use data, strategies, models, or themes from client campaigns that I've seen work well.

And that's only a partial list.

It would be easy to make all of these choices with the best of intentions. I could convince myself that I would be showing students strategies that work best, ideas to implement, etc.

But, there's a potential danger as well.

What if I don't fail on my first attempt and a student does?

What if I make it look easy, glossing over the fact that the first day sending paid traffic to an untested offer usually is the worst day?

If I were to do that, even with the best of intentions, I would be deceiving students into thinking that they had done something wrong, or that they were deficient in some way.

That would be a terrible outcome.

To overcome these potential issues, here's how I am approaching the offer I'll use as the implementation example for this first cohort of The Traffic Engine.

I won't start working on the offer, in any capacity, until April 8th when the course officially begins.

I won't create an offer related to my subject matter expertise in marketing, paid digital advertising, or running a digital agency.

I won't create ad accounts until I create those for the “how to” training, and I won't create any campaigns in either ad account that participants aren't creating as well.

I won't upload any data to create higher quality lookalike audiences or any kind of warm audiences.

And, I won't use any data, strategies, methods, or models from a high-performing client.

A skeptic might think that this is all a stunt, anticipating excellent performance and acting fake-humble when I manage to hit a home run.

The reality, however, is that doing this means I probably will underperform on my first efforts and that's perfectly OK.

Once you understand that poor performance is just a part of the process — often it's the starting point — and that day after day we iterate our way to success, then you will have internalized the most important lesson I can teach you.

And, in the spirit of full disclosure, this approach is much more natural for me…

In a previous email I mentioned that I believe (deeply) in the phrase, “how you do anything is how you do everything.”

I do like to plan, but for the most part, my natural tendency is to jump out of airplanes and try to create a parachute on my way to the ground.

Participants in The Traffic Engine are going to see me do that with the implementation example offer — wish me luck!

My goal in taking this approach, aside from amusing many of you (and, no doubt, André), is to show exactly what it's like to bring forth value into the real world.

In general, it's not always sunshine and unicorns, and that's OK.

When you see the reality of what to expect, and learn how to respond day after day, you will understand what it really takes to succeed with paid traffic.

I had a conversation with a dear friend recently and she reminded me of a timeless truth I think you'll find useful. More about that tomorrow.

I'm excited to see what happens with this.

It's going to be fascinating to watch play out. I know from experience it's going to be stressful for Shawn.

It'll be fun to watch the bugger squirm tho.

Back in 2012, my TLB cofounder Steve Gray, and I were dumb enough to do something similar.

We ran a live campaign in a market we knew nothing about (in hindsight it was a very bad choice of market), in front of our original TLB training students.

There's nothing worse for one's ego and self-esteem than to crash and burn in front of paying students.

I went back to look at the old case study. Near the end, I had written:

“We burnt through another $131.77 on this quick test. Then pulled the plug. Same result. Crickets.

… we were now down $604.66 on Facebook. We spent $805.54 in total. And didn't make one damn sale. Pretty bad.”

But instead of our students laughing at us and calling us names, they LOVED watching how we hustled and iterated, how we used feedback loops to learn (validate) why the audience we targeted hadn't converted.

Not to be outdone, we launched into our second case study. It could have played out just as poorly for us, and early results were far from great (negative ROI).

We tested and tracked and changed angles and rewrote copy, and eventually ended at 150.57% ROI.

  • Ad spend $1,705.01
  • Total Sales: $4,401.60 (138)
  • Refunds: $129.34 (3) // 2.17%

With puffed out chests and egos intact, we asked our peeps their biggest takeaways after watching the two case studies.

Their response surprised us…

They PREFERRED (meaning: learned more) watching us crash and burn, then throw the kitchen sink at trying to turn the campaign around.

In retrospect, this made sense, and ties in with what Shawn said above.

When something goes perfectly to plan, there is very little to learn. It's just worked. Well, okay.

But the reality of business is different.

There is always (always!) more failures than successes. And any success is rarely the result of a Plan A well executed.

Ash Maurya — who enrolled in TTE on Friday — published a book in 2012 called Running Lean.

The tagline: Iterate from Plan A to a Plan That Works

… and that's exactly what reality looks like.

This is a long way of saying there is a damn good chance Shawn's first attempts at “Plan A” will not (initially) have a happy ending.

I'm rooting for my buddy, and I have no doubt the end result will be one of success, but it'll also leave a wake of lessons learned.

Come join us.

The fun starts on April 8th.

You're going to learn so much. You're going to learn through theory and practice how to create traffic engines in 2020 and beyond.

… and you're encouraged to follow along in your own business.

I'm using this as a motivator to build traffic engines for TLB, both on FB and Google Ads.

If this resonates with you, we'd love to have you.

Enjoy your Sunday.

—André (and Shawn)