Do you remember Don Lapre? If you watched TV at 3 o’clock in the morning during the 1990s, I’m sure you do. Some people still call him “The King of Infomercials.” In the 90s, he ran many infomercials, night after night, talking about how he became rich by placing “tiny classified ads” out of his one bedroom apartment. And, for just $39.95, or something like that, he would show you exactly how you could do the same thing.
His product also included details on how anyone could easily make loads of cash by operating 1-900 numbers. And, on every infomercial, over and over again, he’d discuss the idea of pulling incredible profits from your very own 1-900 number.
Now, here’s something amazing: It was really because of Don Lapre that I made tons and tons of money myself – perhaps not millions, but quite a few hundreds of thousands!
So, did Don Lapre’s advertised system work then? Did it deliver everything it promised? Could you really get rich by sending Don Lapre $39.95 and following his instructions?
I have no idea. I never ordered it. I’ve never seen it. I don’t know anyone who ever has. I never gave Don Lapre a single penny, and he never sent me his product.
In the mid 1990s I was working from home, and I worked nights. My regular routine had me waking up at about three o’clock in the afternoon most days, and going to bed around eight a.m. So, while taking breaks from work, I’d often watch a bit of television. At that time of the morning, in those days, there wasn’t much on the tube. There was Don Lapre, one or two other infomercials, and a couple of channels playing old reruns of The Waltons, or Magnum P.I. So, I’d often see Don selling his product.
I must admit, he did have the ability to get me excited about making money. If nothing else, Don Lapre was a heck of a salesman. So, I wrestled for a time with the notion of ordering Lapre’s system. But, I never actually ended up doing it.
As I said before, Don Lapre would talk about how anyone could easily earn money by owning a 1-900 phone number. And, this piqued my interest, as, at the time, advertisements for these numbers were all over the place. Every magazine, every newspaper you saw were littered with 1-900 joke lines, info. lines, dating lines, etc. I suspected that since there were so many people paying to advertise these things, some of them – probably quite a few – had to be making money.
I did have one concern though. How could I operate one of these lines? The overhead must have been truly enormous and I didn’t have very much money. But, to think of what such an operation would entail – getting the lines installed, hiring people to man the phones, renting space to run the operation out of, accountants, payrolls, etc., etc., It all sounded very, very expensive and very, very, time consuming.
Fortunately, Don Lapre alleviated my fears in this regard. During the course of his infomercial he described how anyone who wanted to own one of these 1-900 numbers didn’t actually have to worry about all of things at all. He described how there were large businesses already set-up that had already taken care of all of this. These businesses were called “service bureaus.” They already had the phone lines installed, the operators hired and trained, etc., etc. And, these service bureaus would actually just give you your very own 1-900 number out of the large bank of numbers they owned. All you’d have to do is promote that number. For every minute that someone called your number, they’d pay you a commission.
So, there was no overhead, and no real work other than figuring out and executing ways to get people to call your number. It all sounded too easy.
I became very excited. I knew that such a thing might be a viable and lucrative venture for me. There was only one problem… Don Lapre held the secret of finding these service bureaus, and he wanted $39.95 in order to tell me how to do it.
Now, I’ve always been very skeptical by nature. And, this time was no exception. Right away, the asking price of $39.95 seemed very low for such valuable information! I mean, if it really was as easy as Don Lapre made it sound, and people really could turn this information into a profitable business, then logically, there should be more than a few people out there willing to pay thousands for such information. And, if there were people willing to pay thousands, why on Earth was he selling it for forty bucks? I knew that if I had a product that people were willing to pay me thousands of dollars for, I’d certainly be selling it for thousands of dollars! So, I highly suspected that there had to be a catch somewhere, and I put a good deal of thought into what the catch might be.
I finally came to the conclusion that the $39.95 price tag might just be bait – set up in order to get my name and contact info. into Lapre’s database of prospective buyers. I thought it likely that for my $39.95, I’d receive some sort of information product that detailed the ins-and-outs of the business – how best to run it, where to advertise, what to put in those advertisements, etc. But, the package likely wouldn’t contain any information on exactly how to obtain one of those lines. I figured that after I receive the $39.95 package that taught me all about the business, there’d then be another purchase, likely at a much, much higher price than $39.95, required to actually begin operations of the business.
Was I right? I don’t know. I suspect I probably was. But, I don’t know. I never ordered Don’s $39.95 package.
One night, while watching his infomercial for the umpteenth time, a notion occurred to me. I thought to myself: “Don Lapre can’t be the only person in the world who knows about these 1-900 number service bureaus! I’m sure he didn’t invent them. He had to find out about them himself – without the aid of a tell-all, $39.95 money-making package! And, if he found out about them on his own, why couldn’t I also?”
So, I began my research. When I had some spare time I went to libraries and book-stores looking for trade publications that might relate to that industry. I also happened to have internet access at that time – a time before most people had such access. So, I searched the internet as well. And, as it turns out, Don Lapre was right! Such companies – “service bureaus” – DID exist! And, I found a couple of them! And, I did it entirely on my own.
The first one I found, and eventually decided to do business with, leased out 1-900 numbers for a fee. But, they GAVE AWAY 011 numbers!
If you don’t know what 011 numbers are, they work sort of the same way as 1-900 numbers, except that, people who call the number aren’t billed to their credit card per minute for the call. A 011 number is an international number. If you want to call a phone number that’s located in a foreign country, you have to precede the number with “011” Obviously, if you call that number, you’re going to be racking up long-distance charges on your phone bill for every minute that you’re connected.
Well, back in the 90s, a service bureau would contact a phone company and say: “Listen, we’re going to register this phone number: 011-555-555-1234 in Foreign-Country-X. And, we’re going to be advertising that number as a call service. So, we’re going to generate a lot of traffic to that number, and you’re going to be making a lot of money in long distance charges to that number! So, how about you give us a percentage of all of the long distance charges that number generates? If you don’t want to do that, we’ll register a different number, in a different place, with a different phone company who will give us a percentage!” And so, every minute that someone connected to that number, the phone company would charge them, say, $0.28 to their phone bill, and proceed to send the service bureau, say, $0.14 as a commission.
011 numbers were attractive, because anyone calling them didn’t need a credit card. They just phoned the service and used it, and the only charges they incurred were regular long distance charges that they’d have to pay on their phone bills at the end of the month. But, the providers of those phone lines still made money for every minute that someone called the number!
And, I found a service bureau that would give me my own 011 number for no money. All I had to do was maintain a certain quota of call minutes every month, and as long as I did that, the number was mine. The service bureau got a percentage of the long distance charges from the phone company, and they paid me a percentage of their percentage.
So, I went for it. I got one of the numbers and began trying to think of ways to advertise it so people would call. There was one, small problem. The most obvious way to advertise the line was by placing print ads in newspapers and magazines, or even on television. But, after doing some preliminary research, I found that such methods were really quite expensive, and I didn’t have much money at the time.
What I did have, however, was a small chunk of web space that my internet service provider gave to me as part of my monthly internet access package.
So, I set up a website that would attract visitors who might have an interest in calling such numbers, and I put ads on that website advertising the number. In the beginning the only purpose of the website was just to advertise the number so I could make money from it. And, I did make money. It wasn’t a whole lot of money at first, but it was money that I hadn’t been making before. And, I was making it with practically no initial investment! I had gotten the phone line for free, and the web space I used came with my internet connection that I was already paying a monthly fee for anyway. I built the website myself using free software, and was promoting the website exclusively through means that cost nothing other than my time.
Within no time at all, my phone line was pulling in about $250.00 per month. Not much, I know. But, it really wasn’t taking too much of my time, and who wouldn’t like an extra $250.00 every month? So, I kept doing it.
I began to notice something however. As I searched the internet looking for new and more effective ways to advertise my web site, thus advertising my phone line, I began to find other revenue possibilities for my website. I began to find affiliate programs for various paid membership websites, and I decided to add those to my website as well. And, they began making money too.
I noticed the figures begin to go something like this:
Month 1 – Phone line revenue: $250.00 / affiliate revenue – $50.00
Month 2 – Phone line revenue: $300.00 / affiliate revenue – $150.00
Month 4 – Phone line revenue: $350.00 / affiliate revenue – $300.00
Month 5 – Phone line revenue: $375.00 / affiliate revenue – $600.00
Month 6 – Phone line revenue: $385.00 / affiliate revenue – $1,250.00
Month 7 – Phone line revenue: $400.00 / affiliate revenue – $1,500.00
It wasn’t long before the web site that I started solely to promote the phone line was actually making much more money than the phone line was! So, I turned my focus to promoting the affiliate programs, rather than the phone line, and my profits started to sky rocket!
But, even then I wasn’t happy. I knew that I wasn’t the only person getting paid to promote these affiliate programs. Others were doing it too! And, I thought that if I was making $1,500.00 per month promoting these affiliate programs, the people who were actually running the programs I was promoting had to be making more than me.
So, again I began to research. And, it wasn’t long before I was a direct competitor of the people running the programs I had been promoting. I started my own internet membership web site, and began to pay affiliates to promote my programs!
I suppose it was a little bit of luck that this all happened to coincide with the very beginning of the Dot-Com boom. But, I did end up making a killing. I never quite reached true millionaire status with that business. But, I came pretty darn close! My best month ever in that business, I generated just over $80,000.00 worth of revenue, and my after-tax take-home pay for that month was about $21,000.00.
I started with that single phone line in 1996, and by 1999, I was consistently earning well over $100,000.00 per year – All out of my own home, with no employees, no bosses, no schedules. I worked when I wanted and for how long I wanted. I worked entire days in my underwear when I felt like it. And, really, as odd as it seems, it was all due to Don Lapre and his infomercial… although, he doesn’t know it, and he never saw a single dime from me.
I believe that the reason I was so successful mostly had to do with my mode of thinking. When I saw Don Lapre selling his system, I thought that if he could learn the information that he was trying to sell to me, then there was probably no reason why I couldn’t learn what he had learned without the need to order his product. After all, he didn’t have his product to learn from, right? And, I was pretty sure that if someone was trying to sell me such a system, he would surely be making more money by selling me the system than I would make from putting his system into effect. If not, then why wasn’t he simply spending all of his time working the system he was trying to sell me? So, I took things into my own hands and did it for myself.
After I got the phone-line and the webpage set up, I looked at the companies that I was operating as an affiliate for, and I thought that if I was making money promoting their products, they must be making more money selling those products than I was making by promoting them. So, why should I work in order to make someone else more money than I was making for myself? So, again, I took things into my own hands, and did it for myself.
And, I reaped the benefits.
Could I have made the same kind of money, and been as successful had I simply ordered Don Lapre’s product and only did as his system instructed? I don’t know. But, I suspect not. Or, at least, it would have been much more difficult to do so.
There is money in earning commissions for promoting other people’s products. Don’t get me wrong. When my business was only making money through affiliate commissions and off of the phone lines, I think, if memory serves, I had gotten the business up to about $2,500.00 or so a month in revenue. That’s not too shabby. But, I didn’t start earning really big money until I took control of everything, and the only person getting paid from the work I did was me.
It’s very simple: If you’re making money by promoting someone else’s product or service, you’re SHARING in the profits that you’re working to generate. If you’re making money by promoting your own product or service, there’s no sharing taking place – it’s all for you. You don’t have to divide your money with anyone.
Of course, affiliate marketing has its advantages. It’s much more simple a venture and requires less time and dedication. And, if that’s what you’re looking for, then that’s great. If you don’t mind not earning quite as much money in order to not have to expend quite as much effort, then affiliate marketing is definitely the route you should take.
But, if you’re after the really big bucks and you’re in the affiliate game, just remember: Whatever kind of money you’re making, the person whose business you’re promoting is very likely making more than you are. So, ask yourself: “Would my time be better spent doing what he’s doing? And, why can’t I do what he’s doing?” If your answer to the first question is “yes”, and to the second question “There is no real reason why I can’t do what he’s doing.” Then figure out exactly how to do what he’s doing. After all, if he’s doing it, then it’s possible to do. So, find out how to do it!
And, thank-you Don Lapre! I don’t know if your product was any good or not. But, I’m glad you made your infomercials.
About the author:
Dustin Ward has over twelve years of marketing and product development experience, with almost 10 years of internet marketing experience. He has authored a number of E-Books and has published hundreds of articles. He is currently a featured contributor at: Http://Blog.EarningInternetIncome.Com which features daily insider marketing and money-making tips and a host of valuable resources for anyone who’s interested in earning income from the internet. He is also a featured author at EII E-Books http://ebooks.earninginternetincome.com
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