Ramit Sethi

CEO & author of I Will Teach You To Be Rich

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON January 05, 2017 Thank Ramit Sethi on Twitter


Ramit Sethi — CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
Hey PH! I’m Ramit Sethi. 12 years ago, I launched a blog on personal finance from my dorm room and ended up bootstrapping it to over 1 million readers/month and a New York Times best-selling book.

Then we expanded into psychology, careers, and freelancing.

Now we’re focused on helping people launch and grow their online business. We have a lot of experience in applied A/B tests, funnel design, monetization, growth, SEO, etc — all tested (lots of it counterintuitive). You can get our strategies/tactics and case studies at http://www.growthlab.com.

Here’s a detailed writeup on our business, including our premium business model:

You can read about us in most popular press (NYT, WSJ, Fortune, Today Show, etc).

Happy to chat about what I’ve learned helping people with how to find a business idea, what we’ve learned about monetization, how we grow our traffic and how we’ve built an email list of 800,000+, and how to scale your bootstrapped business.

Twitter: http://twitter.com/ramit
Instagram: http://instagram.com/ramit
Facebook: http://facebook.com/IWT
Philip Kuklis — Co-Founder, Hubble
Hi Ramit, what's one counterintuitive thing about growing a business online that really surprised you?
Ramit Sethi — CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
@philipkuklis At the beginning, I had a million questions about tactics, like which email service provider to use, what time to host a webinar, how long email funnels should be.

Looking back, I think it was critical to master those questions.

But the real growth came from getting good at those, checking the box, and moving on to higher-value questions. The biggest surprise was how many of those questions deal with inner psychology:

- Who are you trying to impress? Techcrunch or your customers?
- You say you're willing to think long-term. Are you willing to cancel a multi-million-dollar launch because the product isn't ready?
- You claim you just want a "small, intimate team" but you also say you want to have a big impact. Are you prepared to change one of those beliefs? (I used to tell myself the small/intimate thing -- I don't know why. It was just a stock phrase I said without thinking about it. Changing this belief led to growing the IWT team.)
- Are you able to mentally handle people refunding products?
- Can you keep the mind of a child even while your business has grown?

So the big surprise was how important mastering your own psychology comes into play as you grow your business.
Emily Hodgins — Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
Hi Ramit, thanks for joining us today. What are your secrets to growth and scaling an online business with limited budget available?
Ramit Sethi — CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
@ems_hodge OK, let me share a few ways we grew IWT from a dorm-room blog into a blog with 1MM+ monthly readers and ~800,000 email subscribers.

1. Start with blogging and organic search. It grows over time and has disproportionate returns. This is what I started with without knowing anything about SEO, monetization, or even an email list. Over time, we got more sophisticated at driving keywords and other inbound techniques. But the best thing was writing remarkable content that people wanted to read -- and then doing it consistently, over and over.

2. Build systems to interact with your readers. When I started, it was blog comments. Now there’s email and social media. In another answer, I mentioned why I still read every single email I get -- it’s the most amazing way to stay in touch with people who read your material. Be intentional about building those channels. Collect surveys, build a simple 5-part email funnel, ask people to write you. Almost nobody does this, and it sets you apart.

3. Learn analytics. I didn’t do this from day 1 because I had no idea how it worked. But now, people are smarter. See if you’re getting traction by channel, then double down in channels that work. As an example, we’ve tried certain promotions that totally bombed. We had one partner email our material to 1,000,000+ people -- and got 0 results! We still tried again, just to be sure. But after that, we killed that approach.

(Notice that none of the above techniques cost any money.)

Unconventional advice:
- Don’t be afraid of writing long material. (As one of my coworkers just told me: “Based on SERP data from SEMRush, we found that longer content tends to rank higher in Google’s search results. The average Google first page result contains 1,890 words.”) If you’re reaching (1) the right people with (2) a message they really want, they will read forever. Some of our sales pages are 75+ pages long. People read to the very end...then they buy.
- Same for emails. Don’t listen to Silicon Valley advice that says nobody has any time and they just want “quick” information. We want high-quality subscribers and we expect a lot from them.
- Keep it fun. Don’t turn into an analytics chaser who only chases the numbers. If you do that, you’re just another ad-tech company. Write stuff that’s fun, that’s engaging, that makes YOU enjoy it. One of my favorite posts starts by asking 650,000 people to vote on their favorite introduction to a song....and all 3 are by Boyz II Men. Hey, it made me laugh.
Mike Coutermarsh — Code @ Product Hunt
Hi Ramit!

Investing question. If you have already maxed your IRA. And also have a 401k (with no match), and a taxable investment account.

Which would you prioritize investing in? 401k (no match) or taxable account?
Ramit Sethi — CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
@mscccc 401(k). Check out the Ladder of Personal Finance on page 76 of my book for more info on this.
Psychology of Pricing for B2B - When should a B2B business reveal price and should it be specific or a range? You qualify subscribers and send them through an extensive email funnel before they ever see the price of a product. Our business (MH) does company team building at avg. of $139 per person for groups of 10+, but there is a range of services so it can be $99 to $189+ The leads are usually an HR manager or another admin person who has a specific budget in mind (clients ranging from small law office up to Google, KPMG, etc.) #1 question is "how much does it cost?" and #2 is "whats included?" Generally they are looking to book within a month or so. Our goal is to convert more deals at higher margins. Options: #1 put $139 avg. on the landing page, to deter folks with budgets that are well below our range and to anchor high, we've tested and this reduced the quantity of leads, #2: put a range on the landing page, e.g., $99 to $139+ to accommodate folks w/ a lower budget that sales team can then upsell, #3, either specific price or range in the auto email we send right away before lead talks w/ sales team, #4, nowhere, custom on the call w/ sales rep, #5, test all of these (difficult w/ the custom product and variety of clients). Resource recommendations?
Ramit Sethi — CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
@michael_alexis The typical Silicon Valley answer is "test it." I want to go deeper.

1. Is this worth spending time on? Run a simple model to ask if getting this "right" is going to grow the business any substantial amount. If not, move on. (We once had a product that we were tinkering with. Then we stepped back and said, "If we grow this product 10x, will it make a difference?" And the answer was no. We shut the product down.)

Most things in business are not worth spending time (and I question whether a $40 difference will truly make a big difference in the overall annual revenue -- more on that in a second). The more advanced your business gets, the more frequently you should say "no."

2. Who is the customer you're trying to target? You say you want to close more deals at higher margins, but also that when you added a higher price on the sales page, you decreased quantity. Most would say "You can't have your cake and eat it too," but you can -- you just have to go at it in 2 ways: (1) Get more qualified leads to the site, and (2) use the higher price to qualify them.

3. To go deeper on getting higher-margin customers in higher quantities. This is possible, but it involves more than just an A/B test on the landing page. It involves re-engineering your marketing from the ground up:
- Where are you finding these leads? You will likely have to find other acquisition sources (and lots of them, since most will be worthless). This is the single-most important thing you can do: Focus on lead quality.
- What's your value proposition? This is huge. If you're comparing yourself to a movie, people won't want to pay. Be very mindful of how you benchmark yourself. This is why, in our Zero To Launch course, we talk about the difference between selling an "ebook" and a "course." Very, very different in subtle ways.
- Don't make it weird: There's nothing weird about paying a premium price for the premium experience they're getting. Be sure to do your customer research and understand the true hopes, fears, and dreams. If I'm an HR director in NYC taking my team out, the last thing I want is to look stupid or feel embarrassed. That's why people pay for nice/mediocre restaurants -- safety/security and the knowledge they're going to be taken care of. Decide on your USP and be unapologetic about your price.
- Be thoughtful about your copy and images. Are you showing one person in your pictures, or a team? Do they have wine in their hand or is the boss present and everyone is serious? Your copy matters, too.

If you do all these things effectively, price will be a mere triviality. The best part is, your true customers WANT you to do this! And they're delighted to pay more.

It's also the reason we're able to charge 10x-100x our competition, and our students join multiple courses. Hope this helps.
@ramit thank you for way over-delivering on this answer
Angel Alegre Garcia — Owner, Vivir al Máximo
Hi Ramit,

After creating more than 10 successful info-products about many topics (last one about cooking) and organizing Forefront, your first big live event, what's next for IWT?
Ramit Sethi — CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
@angeliti Thanks for asking!

We’re always working on new products in our product lab -- often years before they’re released publicly. So keep an eye out.

I’m glad you mentioned Forefront (forefrontevent.com). This was a huge new event we threw last year, our first major event with 500 people in Manhattan and Daymond John speaking. 2017 will be even bigger. I think it’s awesome to be able to connect ambitious people with each other where they can pursue a rich life without feeling weird.

Btw, one of the best pieces of feedback we got was, “Back home, I’m the weird guy who reads self development. I feel at home with the people here.”

And we’re doubling down on online business on GrowthLab.com, where we’ll be sharing new case studies, A/B tests, email funnels, copywriting techniques, and our students’ stories.

Hope this helps! Thanks for following along.
Peter Nguyen — The Essential Man
What are some things you thought were stupid, useless, or pointless in your 20s that you found was actually important to your business' success now?
Ramit Sethi — CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
@theessentialman I used to undervalue the importance of symbolic things. Like taking a bottle of wine to a friend's place for a party ("He already has enough alcohol" -- that's not the point). Or decorating my apartment ("It's fine, I'm just going to take it down in a couple years anyway") or dressing better ("she should like me for who I am").

Now I think those are incredibly important, even though they're subtle. You may not recognize the reason you know you're in a high-end store now (it's the subtle candles, the floor, the clothes that the employees are wearing), but you know you're not in Wal-Mart. And it matters.

One other thing I want to mention: COLLEGE. It's really popular for people to say "Don't bother with college, get a real-world education." I loved college and think it was one of the most valuable things I ever did. Not only can you choose your own curriculum, you learn the skills of discipline, building relationships, navigating bureaucracy. No, I don't remember the quiz I took in 2003 on statistics, but I still use the skills I learned in college every day.
Valencia Roner — Product & Services Mgr | Program Manager
@ramit @theessentialman Excellent point. As a regional Product and Services Manager, I have teams that work in many small towns in addition to a few big ones. In my case, by dropping in to say "Hello" and share the progress of the work of my teams in the area is so casual, yet, so appreciated. As a result, the local community serves as my best advocate for our product offerings, leading our team to exceed production goals consistenly for the past three years.

It demonstrates a level of respect and cultural competence as well as a quality of marketing money can't buy.
I have $5000 with me which I'd like to invest and grow quickly. What possible options do I have in today's market? Where do I begin?
Ramit Sethi — CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
@403ish If your goal is quick cash, I can't help. And if you're concerned about "today's market," you're asking the wrong question -- you should be focusing on long-term gains. Start by getting your personal finances automated. It's systematic, boring -- and it works. Then you earn the right to focus on the sexier, more fun areas, like creating an online business.
@ramit I agree. I should not say quickly but rather gradually and over time. I know short term gains only happen with luck and being in right place and right time. I have been through some of those before. But now I am definitely looking for long term. By personal finances, you mean what you have described in your book right? Any suggestions on how to look in the right places to start online businesses?
Angel Alegre Garcia — Owner, Vivir al Máximo
Hi Ramit,

Do you really read ALL the e-mails from your readers or you have someone filter the important ones for you?

Why didn't you decide to delegate that part of your business?
Ramit Sethi — CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
@angeliti I read every email. Even the customer service ones.

The emails are absolutely amazing. People respond differently to surveys or social media than emails (emails are much more intimate -- especially if you have a relationship with that person). For example, I've asked a question on twitter where 100% of people gave one answer, but in email, they gave the opposite answer. The email answers were politically incorrect -- but true.

I love the emails (1) for pure entertainment value -- you should see the stories I get, and (2) to learn about what people are really thinking and what's going on in their lives. It keeps me at the cutting edge of knowing exactly what's going on in a huge amount of people's lives.

I respond to quite a few, but I can't respond to all of them any more -- that's one thing I've had to change as the business has grown. Interestingly, the hardest part about this was changing my identity from "The guy who responds to every single email he gets" to "The guy who reads every email." I may have to change that in the future, too.
In light of our generation's fascination with building "the next Facebook," how much stock do you put into the comment that "The best minds of my generation are thinking about how to make people click ads. That sucks."?

I personally think there's a lot of value in understanding people's motivations and influencing them, but I'd be curious to hear your perspective. Especially, as someone who's built a hugely successful company and impacted millions of people primarily through getting those initial "clicks."

(Quick caveat: Of course, later on, it's much more than just a "click." People go on to apply your material to get in incredible shape, build side businesses and get their dream jobs.)
Ramit Sethi — CEO, I Will Teach You To Be Rich
@robert_allen I think one of the seductive traps that smart people fall into is chasing arbitrary goals that are put in front of them. At a prior company I worked at, I remember being in the conference room, debating some esoteric feature with 5 other people for 30 minutes.

Suddenly we stopped and realized we were arguing about something meaningless.

It was a pretty amazing moment that I still remember years later. For those 30 minutes, we were ferociously battling over our views. But in the grand scheme...it was pointless.

This is a risk smart people have. Put a challenge in front of them and they'll attack it. But the larger question is, "Is this worth my time? Is this something I genuinely value?"

I think about this a lot. Getting away -- whether a vacation, or even the once-a-week Strategy Day that I do -- is helpful in getting perspective.

Some thoughts on the "Click" point:
- Anyone can get someone to click a link. But if you can't build something valuable enough for people to stay, you're doomed. This is exactly what you see happening when sites with 20mm+ visitors shut down. They built a click farm without sustaining value.
- Our focus: Getting people to change their behavior, not just getting them to “click." For example: We spend very little time testing different headlines, but we agonize over the products we create (for YEARS), the offers, and even the free emails we send out.
- If we were focused on getting people to just “click," we’d have a very different business. Instead, we want students for life.
- I believe that people -- no matter how loyal -- are just one click-bait article away from unsubscribing. If that happens, we lose them forever. So every email, every post, has to be great.
Hi! My name is Florencia, I'm a student from Argentina currently offering my services as a translator from english to spanish, focusing on fashion blogs. Not having response on my pitches, what target market should I be pitching in your opinion?
Zubin Ajmera — Founder -- Industrial Inside
@flo_castro -- This is a video by Ramit where he answers this question -- "My Market Won't Pay".

Hope it helps you --
Peter Nguyen — The Essential Man
@flo_castro Hi Florencia. I'm a personal stylist and run a fashion blog, someone that would be in your target audience. I've read posts from Neil Patel about getting your website translated to rank on foreign google. Despite it being interesting way of expanding, I didn't see a direct benefit/roi for me. And/or the impact was too far away for me to find it worth the effort. While translating fashion blogs might sound fun for you, one thing that helps is looking at it from the eyes of your potential clients. Ask the simple question "How is this going to help my business? How is this going to make me money? How long will it take?"
@theessentialman Thank you so much for the feedback, you can imagine how valuable is that in this first stage of crafting my business. I was thinking like this: wider audience, more brands would want to work with you in spanish-speaking countries because of your influence, and that means more business for yourself. How can we get in touch? I'd love to discuss some things with you and get more valuable advice, see what you think about this target market, or if I should change it. My contact is florenciacastro23@gmail.com. Please, if you could contact me or give me your contact, that would be extremely valuable to me. Best regards
Theoharis Dimarhos — Marketing+Biz Dev at AngelouEconomics
Hey Ramit! You often talk about getting coaches. Where is the entry level with that i.e. finding someone for affordable fee that can scale?
Angel Alegre Garcia — Owner, Vivir al Máximo
Hi Ramit,

I know you lift weight regularly. Have you ever tried Crossfit?
Hi Ramit, what are the most significant differences in marketing products vs. marketing services?
Zubin Ajmera — Founder -- Industrial Inside
Earn 1K was a pivotal moment in your IWT history.

You’ve mentioned this before that one doesn’t need to be an expert to start an online business or freelancing, etc. – you just have to be “good enough” – one step ahead of the people you’re teaching it to.

What I like to know is how do you create a course/information product on this topic if you’re just “good enough” and not an expert?

Eg:- Let’s say the topic of your site is – “earn money on the side” – (given you have done your homework – research, talking to people, knowing hopes, fears and dreams of your target audience, niching it down, etc.)

After you have around 5000 subscribers (just an example), what steps do you take then?
1) Hiring people to help you create a course? (since like I mentioned above – you only know a part of this topic.) If yes, what job title you look for, anything specific?
2) Create on your own? (In this case, you risk since you aren’t 100% knowledgeable on the topic)
3) A combination of both above?

How would you approach this situation?

Thanks Ramit!
One more question, Ramit: If you were just launching IWT today—starting from scratch, but knowing what you know now—how would you spend your first $100?
if all you had was $5000 in your bank account as seed capital with the intention to use it to invest and grow what would you do with it?
Raj G. — Operations
Hey Ramit, if you only had 2 hours a day to work on creating a business. What would you focus on after validating the idea?
Peter Thiel, the serial company creator (PayPal, Palantir) and billionaire investor, is famous for asking, "What Valuable Company Is Nobody Building?"

I'd love to know what your answer is.
Nathan Mueller — CTO, Knot Complex
I've read that every skill you pick up doubles your odds of success. While is clearly more of an anecdotal observation on the part of the author than a scientifically validated statement ( unless it is, but I haven't seen any studies) what is your opinion on this maybe as opposed to a deeper focus on specialization on a specific skill or skill set?
Mary Green — online marketing strategist
When is the next ZTL?
Angel Alegre Garcia — Owner, Vivir al Máximo
Hi Ramit,

Why do you prefer sale funnels consisting of multiple e-mails with text + some links to media content instead of the typical 3-video series used by most marketers in the industry?
is this live?
Emily Hodgins — Community and Marketing, Product Hunt
@sanjay_duggal hey Sanjay! Yes Ramit is answering our questions in real time so if you have a question, type it in here and hopefully Ramit will be able to get to it within the hour. 👌
I'm debating between your Dream Job and Networking online course- assuming Networking module is included in the Dream Jon, so I don't need to get Networking course if I went with Dream Job? any guidance you can provide (even at high level) is appreciated. Thanks and Happy New Year
Zubin Ajmera — Founder -- Industrial Inside
@jatin_jt -- This is the FAQ page for Find Your Dream Job. The second-last question will answer your question too -- have a look --

Tyler Spraul — Director of UX, Exercise.com
Hi Ramit,

Expanding from personal finance to psychology, careers, and freelancing seems like quite the change-up! How much of this came from listening to the market vs. "scratching your own itch" and following your interests?
Tyler Spraul — Director of UX, Exercise.com
Hi Ramit,

Looking back, what's the 1 thing your most proud of so far in your life?

Once you're all done, how do you want to be remembered?