The distance between insanity and genius is measured only by success

– Bruce Feirstein

I don’t know what came over me when I had this idea.

I was at a dog park and i saw this lady that had this pet collar that looked like California driver’s license.

I thought.. hey this is pretty crazy but it might just work.

“How much did you pay for this?”

She replied, “$20”.

Holy hell. $20? For a piece of laminated photo with some custom information on it?

Of course, I knew about dogs at the time, because i had 3.

At that moment, I should’ve asked around .. or just look around and notice that among 20+ friends I knew that had dogs, no one had or even wanted this thing. That usual metal tag with name, ID, and phone number was good enough.

I believe in this stupid Silicon Valley “make a crazy product”… “build it and they will come” bull shit.

I thought “hmm.. dog lovers, big enough market, and a pretty crazy innovative product. maybe this can work”.

My competitors were getting sales by word of mouth and orders were taken manually, meaning you couldn’t see what the product looked like until you received it.

I knew Adwords and traffic buying like the back of my hand, and I’m a kick ass coder.

I thought I would corner the market by actually showing the finished product (most intensive jquery coding I’ve ever done)… then BAM, pour on adwords, let I take care of billing, and my partner (a local printshop that actually co-invested in this idea with me) would do the shipping, handling, and returns.

So did it work?

Let me answer that in form of a question.

Ever watch Willy the Coyote try to catch the Roadrunner while on roadskates with a jetpack, only to blast into the wall?

Then they play that “wah wah wah” sound effect?

I invested $60k of my profits from my affiliate marketing days into equipment I didn’t need, building relationship with suppliers I didn’t want to ever deal with, and of course, 3 months of my life coding away, and dumped additional $5k in adwords / media buying.

I made an amazing sale of $300.

Of course, I pivoted.

I wasnt sure if target market was off or my intuition was off, but I knew there was something with dog people.

So i started a blog, thinking that i would use inbound marketing to get some organic sales.

Back at the time, Facebook fanpages were novelty and of course, Facebook ads made it mindlessly easy to get fans.

I was getting fans at less than penny a fan. And I mean the GOOD traffic: 25+ US females. And hitting 33k Facebook fans was quite easy.

Of course, Facebook page reach was pretty phenomenal back then too. I would post about any dog picture, and I would get 60-70% reach (not anymore, and if you are still building your “asset” on someone else’s property, sooner or later you’re gonna wake up to a rude awakening of sharecropping).

I posted a story about this one dog named Patrick who was thrown down the garbage chute of 20 story building in NJ after starving & beating him for weeks.

That went viral. Probably gave me 300-400 email optins.

I posted a story bout how I lost & found my dog, only to have him found by a NHL hockey player. I used that story as link bait and got insane PR, including backlinks from CSN and NBC.

(Me and Joe Pavelski of San Jose Sharks)

That went viral. Gave me another 300+ optins.

All in all, I had the largest newsletter of my life up to that point – (I have a personal newsletter, which you should join!)

So how many sales came out of that?

Another couple of hundred bucks at best. After a year or so of hitting the brickwall so many times, my fumes ran out.

So what did I learn?

1) Targeting broad = Surest way to succeed and fail

I live US.

Everyone (well, there is no scientific basis for this claim but probably 90%+ either tolerates or) loves dogs. 2/3 of the people are fat. Most are 1 paycheck away from complete bankruptcy. Everyone wants a sports car. Gossip media is probably the most popular genre, next to shitty bad news.

Just because you are in a big market doesn’t mean there are schmucks waiting to give away their hard earned cash for your widget.

Why? Because no one cares.

If you have an innovative product or service, find a SMALL niche who cares about your stuff.

Let them amplify for your message with referrals, testimonials, and of course, free backlinks.

2) Test first. Build second.

Four Hour Work Week, Lean Startup, Business Model Generation…

All these books say the same thing OVER AND OVER.

Get the customer FIRST. Invest in engineering & do all that fun scaling stuff whe you actually DO have money coming in.

Remember, the world is FULL of people who’s good at doig all that non marketing / sales stuff. Most are afraid of failures and rejections. If you’re the entrepreneur, that’s your job.

It’s gonna sound crazy, but you can even apply lean startup methods to dentists.

3) Give people what they want, NOT what you want.

You are not Steve Jobs. I am not Elon Musk.

There are some entrepreneurs who can actually create a market that did not really exist (or wasn’t a very good one).

Meaning they can create stuff that people would actually want even if they had no idea those things existed. Why? Because they can somehow “create” the future and the 99% of us just walk into it.

It’s ok, you don’t have to be Musk/Jobs to be successful. Look at Sam Walton.

In fact, BE like Sam Walton. Figure out what the public is looking at and playing with, and sell that. (Yes, be a mercenary.)

Even in affiliate marketing, I was so resistant against doing health & beauty because quite frankly, I don’t know what middle aged women from the ‘burbs want. But little did I know, there was MORE money in weight loss than i imagined possible.

If you’re marketing someone else’s product or service, understand the market and give them what they want and need. (Assuming that the product or service is completely ethical & legitimate).

By Taewoo Kim

TaeWoo is an accomplished online marketer with 10+ years of experience in affiliate marketing, lead generation, SEM, PPC, and media buying. You can follow him on his blog at or on Twitter @TaeWooKim.

23 thoughts on “30k Fans, 1k Subscribers, 3 Huge Mistakes.”
  1. Great post Taewoo! I’m at a cross road right now and your post was quite useful help me almost decide which road to take.

    You see, I started list building 3 weeks ago – my first project — we have 2 yorkies so it was a no brainer for a project to learn how aweber works, how to setup leadpages opt in pages, thank you pages, confirmation pages, follow up sequences, etc etc.

    Now that I am somewhat of a novice in setting it all up, I was thinking whether to pick a broad niche like diet and build a mega list or to build many niche lists.

    I am still not 100% clear on the matter, but your post helped a bit shed light on how going too broad isn’t necessarily the best.

    1. Well, at least yorkies are a subset of dogs. Going “dog” is way too broad. In other countries where dog passion isn’t as high might make sense.. but not in US.

      Thanks for the compliments.

  2. That poor poor dog. That’s all I can take away from this post. I just start sobbing when I see those pictures. I’ve heard Patrick’s story before but it doesn’t get any less sad. It just makes me so mad. It makes me ill to think how evil some people are to animals.

  3. It has been a roller coaster just thinking about how facebook has changed over the years, sounds like you’ve definately had your fair share of rides on it.

  4. Things with dog people are HUGE. Pets are more like children to people anymore. I know I am one of those people. I’ve never had kids and don’t know if I ever will but I spend more than I probably should on a ‘pet’ but my dog’s well being and comfort is extremely important to me and I’m willing to spend money on that.

  5. Another great post Taewoo. Thank you for sharing your experience and insight.

  6. Hmm – what an interesting post. A friend of mine sent it to me.

    I launched 7 months ago.

    To date we’ve well into the 6 figures of sales, and are profitable.

    Guess no one wants these things…

    1. That’s like saying because I failed at a restaurant, that restaurant business doesn’t work.

      I’m telling you that I failed at it.. not that everyone else on this planet did.

      Why did Zynga succeed while Friendster failed at game business?

      Why did Facebook succeed at social networking while Myspace failed at social networking?

      Im just sharing my experience.. that’s all i’m saying

      1. Right on point TaeWoo!

        Yes just because someone failed it doesn’t means that you should not try. But we get to read a failure story, not so many out there. So much to learn from this failure alone.

  7. Hi TaeWoo, wow that’s a roller coaster ride and proves that what we think doesn’t always turns to be the reality. Also I remember those days of facebook where I could easily reach 2-3K people from my 1K fans fan page.

    What’s the current stat of your petID website, did you sold it, or you still own it?

    Tamal Anwar

    1. I still have it. I might revive it now that im much better at buying media and marketing in general, but I hate doing the operational part of it.. especially returns.. ugh..

      1. Maybe you need to let it go and start fresh (and I am sure you are doing so) I also checked that someone here in the comments has a similar site, maybe sell it to someone like them. Just my 2 cents.

  8. I’m very much on board with your idea of test first then build second. I mean how can you know how if something is going to work if you don’t test it and why put money into it.

  9. Very insightful. I think what I will take from this is that no matter how good I think an idea is, it needs to be tested, tested and tested. Then scaled up. I have taken a view that if I have spent money, no matter how much, I consider it a lesson learnt rather than money wasted.

Comments are closed.