In the video below, I explain my marketing epiphany and how my business completely changed with a cup of Folger’s instant coffee.
My Marketing Epiphany: How My Business Changed with a Cup of Coffee
(Below is the transcript from the video.)
I’m gonna to tell you how my business and my life changed with a cup of coffee.
I was in my thirties, I was working for an insurance wholesaler, and I was always on the lookout for helping the advisers that I worked with, help them find ways to grow their business. And this commercial came on TV, and the commercial was a Folgers Instant Coffee commercial. Anybody remember the commercial?
It was set at Arnaud’s, a four star restaurant in New Orleans, and they’re secretly serving Folgers Instant Coffee. People are drinking the coffee and they’re going, “Mmm, delicious. Wonderful. Terrific. Can I have some more?” And I thought, what is going on here? Because I have tasted Folgers Instant Coffee, and it definitely tastes like cat pee.
And I thought, what’s happening here? So, I started thinking, looking, reading, discerning, which led me on a journey to start to study and find out why is it that people tasted really good coffee. What I realized was I had this Folgers … I call it my Folgers principle. It’s the first marketing epiphany I had, and that is people see what they expect to see and you can set the stage.
As I studied, I started to look at marketing, advertising, communication, persuasion, ethical persuasion, all of that. I started to realize, wow, this is really powerful, and so I started to build a marketing system based upon these principles. I gave it to some of the advisers I was working with, and they started to experience growth, growth, growth, more clients. They started to grow and I thought, this is really cool.
I continued to tweak it and mess with it. And then one day I’m sharing these principles with a group of advisers, and all of a sudden the light bulb went off. See, I had failed out of the business in my twenties. I’d started in the financial service business and I did everything they told me to do, and I couldn’t do the one thing that I wanted to do at the time.
My wife Beth was working for Abbott Labs, and she was doing really well. She was a pharmaceutical sales rep. She was doing really well, and we decided we’d like to have a family. She said, “I’d really like to leave my job and come home and and raise a family full-time. That’s what I’d really like to do.”
Well, I wanted to be able to do that, but the deal was I couldn’t make enough money. I just couldn’t get it off the ground. I was trying as hard as I could. I didn’t really like selling, and I really hated the rejection. And I wanted to. I wanted to, but I couldn’t make enough money. She was doing really well.
Finally, I took a job with a wholesaler, and it allowed her to come home. And I realized that my journey to that moment really started a lot earlier.
See, my brother’s Karl Keffer IV. He was good looking, a great athlete, and he met people really well. He was sort of everything. He was 18 months my senior, and he was everything I wanted to be but wasn’t.
I started out kind of cute, and then I got fat and pimply. I wasn’t a great athlete. I was really kind of uncoordinated, and I didn’t meet people really well. I was super shy and introverted, so I ended up hanging around with my brother all the time and his friends. And I still remember … This was sort of the picture by growing up: We were living in Illinois. We moved six times. We were living north of Chicago, and we had a pretty level backyard, so we going to have a pickup football game.
That was the only thing … I couldn’t do organized sports because I really wasn’t a coordinated, so we did the backyard and we did the white stuff. Did you ever do that? Do the lines for the football field? What was that with? I can’t remember.
Yeah, it’s like chalk. We did the lines.
I was so excited. My brother and his buddies, we’re setting it up. We put a clock on the side so we could actually time the quarters and whatnot. Everybody brought their stuff over, and then it was time to pick teams. We got in a big group like you do in gym class and you start. Somebody was the captain, and they started to pick. One by one, the group is getting smaller, and I’m still left. At the end, they said, “Okay.”
My brother says, “Who’s going to pick Scotty?”
That was sort of my entire growing up, who’s going to pick Scotty? And in fact, we ran out of helmets, so they gave me … Somebody brought an old leather helmet. They must have used it in the thirties, and they put it on my head and they said, “Okay, if you get into the game, that’s what you wear.” And that sort of defined my growing up, who’s going to pick Scotty?
I didn’t realize, really, until later in life that what I was really looking for, because my dad was traveling all the time so I never really saw him, that at the core of that was I really wanted my dad to pick me, but he wasn’t around.
I can still remember coming home. I wouldn’t athletic like my brother, and I remember coming home with a math quiz. I’d done well on a math test, and I had my A. My dad would travel all week long, and then he was home on the weekends. Then, he went off to golf and he did some other stuff. He Just didn’t have time to really celebrate with me.
So, that journey, I realized from that day with this was I was really helping advisers get picked, which is really what I wanted to do, which was learn how to get picked.
One of my best advisers said to me, in the most terrifying moment, he said, “You do this for other people. You’re doing this for me. Why don’t you do it yourself?”
I can remember, we were sitting there drinking a cup of coffee, not Folgers, and I thought, oh. I mean, he freaked me out when he said that. Like, “Why don’t you do this? You’re doing all this stuff for us. You teach us how to market and grow. Why aren’t you doing this for yourself?”
I was scared to death, and I didn’t want to tell Terry I’m scared. I just, “I don’t know. I’ll think about it.” I went home and remember thinking about it: What am I going to do about that?
It was challenging, why wouldn’t you do this? At the core of that, I was afraid I’d let Beth down. I was afraid I’d let our children down. I was afraid I’d let myself down again. But at the core of that, I was really afraid that I’d hear again, like, who’s going to pick Scotty?
My journey was really about how to get picked. I was showing other people how to get picked, and I thought, what about me? What about me? So, we went home, Beth and I prayed, and I walked away from a six figure job. We opened up and we decided to have a startup practice just for high net worth, and so we ruthlessly applied the marketing systems.
This was in 1994, and were able within a couple of years to build just high net worth, that’s all. We would only deal with millionaire clients. We were able to use the very same things I was helping others to do, and all of a sudden we had a high net worth practice, which seemed really good. Then, I was about to experience my second set of epiphanies. I had a set of marketing epiphanies, but I hadn’t had the how-do-you-run-a-business epiphanies. They were very different.
I brought in a partner, we continued to grow. Probably grew too fast, and we’d gotten to the place where we had to make a decision, and the decision was I had to disconnect my partner out of the business and take the business over because we were deeply in debt. It came on the heels of I had this one-two punch in my life.
First of all, I had an autoimmune attack that stole about 15% of my energy. Anybody ever dealt with an autoimmune disease? So, I had autoimmune disease. Now I have less energy. Then, I had to exit my partner, take over the business, and we owed about a half a million dollars in debt. Actually, $463,459.15, to be exact.
He brought in attorneys, so they decided that they were going to have … If you know asset protection, which they did, not only was I going to sign for debt, they made Beth sign as well. So, now they can access me, they could access anything she owned and anything we owned jointly, which was irrelevant because we didn’t own anything jointly because we’d put everything into the business. But we signed it, and we signed it literally on our wedding anniversary, June 25th, 2004.
Now, I’ll tell you guys, that’s not a great wedding anniversary idea. Just doesn’t make the top. And I still remember when I signed the papers, I felt bad. I mean, I felt like a failure. I felt like back in who’s gonna pick Scotty?
Beth was in the other room, so I had to walk them into the other room. And she worked part time in the business, helped the whole time, and her hands were shaking as she signed the papers.
As they left, I remember we were sitting there and thinking, what are we going to do? My partner’s gone. I have to let somebody go so we can trim because I wasn’t paying attention to the money. So, I look at the money. We had to let somebody go. We had two other people, Beth’s still part time, so I told them all about the situation and within six months they both quit, one at 9:00 AM on a Monday morning and the other walked in right behind them at 9:15 and the second person quit. My key assistant and para-planner, they quit back to back.
I said, I think I’ll go home and throw up, and then I’ll be back and figure out what to do. So, it was like the second punch. Now, we were coming through this autoimmune stuff, we’ve got debt, these people leave. And so here we are at this moment, it felt like a crossroads. What are we going to do? What are we going to do?
Everybody’s telling us, “Bag it in. Just bag it.” It was just Beth and I, so we wondered. I remember sitting. There was an October cold afternoon, and the wind’s blowing outside and the winds blowing inside, and we’re just deciding what are we going to do?
And it was in that moment, it was kind of like, what are you gonna do? What are you about? Annie talked about your why. What are we about? What is this really about? And it was at that moment that we had to dig back down and figure out why are we doing this at all?
We decided we were gonna keep rolling at it, so I brought in a friend who helped rehab the business and we went back at it. And within four years, during that time I was learning. Just like I had a marketing epiphany and I studied what does it take to build a marketing machine? The other thing I began to study, what does it take to have a business that really runs like a business?
At the end of that time, I can tell you in 2008, by the grace of God, on our anniversary, June 25th, 2008, we literally paid the final payment, paid off our debt. Isn’t that really cool? We felt like, wow.
And the really cool thing is over that time we lost no clients. Now, I’m telling you, if I were a client of me, I would have left, because think about it. The entire team’s gone, and we rebuilt our team, and we kept all of our clients after that.
And so, in 2008, we were totally out of debt, and I began to experience during that time … There was articles written on not only what we learned from a marketing standpoint, mostly, but business standpoint as well. I was asked to speak at conferences, and it wasn’t long after that that I began to realize that what I’d learned, the marketing epiphanies and the business epiphanies were powerful concepts that I could transfer on to other advisers.
As a result of that, I started being invited to speak at industry events, and then in 2010, really, we kicked off with our first boot camp and we’ve been sharing it ever since. It’s grown to over 10 times what we started with, and, in fact, it grew so well we stopped doing the planning work that we were doing and now we just help folks like you.