Today, I’m happy to have my friend Colin Jones on the show.
Colin was a professional black jack player and made over $4 million dollars by counting cards at casinos. But today, he runs a successful online business teaching others how to beat the casinos over at BlackjackApprenticeship.com
Today, we’re going to talk about his entrepreneurial journey and how he’s created an incredible business based on his previous hobby.
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What You’ll Learn
- Colin background story on how he became a professional gambler
- Why he decided to teach blackjack
- How he gets paying customers to his program
- How card counting works and your advantage over the casino
- How to build an audience on YouTube
- How to turn YouTube subscribers into email subs and messenger subs
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Steve: You’re listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast, the place where I bring on successful bootstrapped business owners and dig deep into what strategies they use to grow their businesses. Now today I have my buddy Colin Jones on the show. And Colin is a successful card counter who has made over $4 million playing blackjack. And today he’s created an incredible business teaching others how to count cards, and we are going to learn how he did it.
But before we begin, I want to give a quick shout out to Privy who is a sponsor of the show. Privy is the tool that I use to build my email list for both my blog and my online store. Right now I’m using Privy to display a cool wheel of fortune pop up. Basically a user gives their email for a chance to win valuable prices in our store. And customers love the gamification aspect of this. And when I implemented this form email signups increased by 131%.
You can also use Privy to reduce cart abandonment with cart saver pops and abandoned cart email sequence as well at one super low price that is much cheaper than using a full blown email marketing solution. So, bottom line, Privy allows me to turn visitors into email subscribers and recover lost sales. So, head on over to Privy.com/Steve and try it for free. And if you decide you need some of the more advanced features, use coupon code MWQHJ for 15% off. Once again, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/Steve.
I also want to give a quick shout out to Klaviyo who is also a sponsor of the show. Klaviyo is the tool that I use to build real quality customer relationships with my e-commerce store. And because all my transactions and email correspondence is tracked in Klaviyo, I can easily build meaningful customer relationships by listening, understanding and taking cues from my customers and delivering personalized marketing messages.
So for example, with one click of a button, I can easily send a specific and targeted email to all customers with a lifetime value of over 100 bucks who purchased a red handkerchief in the past year. Now, it is for this reason why over 10,000 brands have switched over to Klaviyo. And you can try them for free at Mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O. Once again that’s Mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O, now on to the show.
Intro: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. We will teach you how to create a business that suits your lifestyle so you can spend more time with your family and focus on doing the things that you love. Here’s your host Steve Chou.
Steve: Welcome to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast. Today I’m really happy to have my buddy Colin Jones on the show. Now Colin is someone who I’ve hung out with on multiple occasions at various conferences. And he actually even wrote this guest post for my blog, I want to say almost eight to 10 years ago, but Colin has a really interesting story. The man used to play blackjack professionally and he made over $4 million by counting cards at casinos.
And today he runs a successful online business teaching others how to beat the casinos at blackjack over at Blackjackapprenticeship.com. And today what we’re going to do is we’re going to talk about his entrepreneurial journey and how he created an incredible business out of — I don’t want to call it a hobby but how he used to make money before counting cards. And with that, welcome to show Colin, how are you doing today?
Colin: I’m great. Thanks so much for having me.
Steve: So Colin, I know you got a lot of funny stories to tell. But take us back to when you first started playing blackjack. First of all, how the heck did you end up doing this professionally?
Colin: Yeah, so I graduated with a math degree and pretty much no ambition, no idea what I was going to do for work because with the math degree, you either teach or you go back to school, can become an actuary, but that’s going to take years of tests and I just didn’t want to really do any of that. But a friend of mine said, hey, Colin, you’re a math guy. I’m teaching myself how to count cards, and he loaned me these books and he was a smart guy. And he wanted someone to get into it with him. And I thought I could probably do this. And so while I was doing a combination of working at Red Robin and substitute teaching, I read these books and practiced it, decided to give it a go, convinced my wife to take $2,000 of our savings and which was not enough, but I just kind of got lucky off the bat and the rest is history.
Steve: Okay, so 2,000 bucks. Was that like a significant portion of your savings?
Colin: I think we had six grand in the bank but were, I think we lived off of something like 1,500 a month at the time and so it kind of felt like go for it, what’s there really to lose? I could get another job if I needed to. She didn’t think it was going to work but she thought I get out of my system and it did work.
Steve: So was Red Robin like your only job ever then?
Colin: I mean, I had some jobs in high school and I was substitute teaching when basically the deal I worked out with my wife was if I didn’t get called into substitute teach, I could go play blackjack, which sounds awful. But I’d honestly never been in a casino until I’d spent at least dozens of hours practicing card counting and I spent, I don’t know probably at least 100 hours practicing before I went in a casino. But she agreed, hey, if I don’t get called into work, I wouldn’t just sit at home, I’d go and count some cards.
Steve: So, before we get into the details of your business, I’m just kind of curious about card counting in general, can you just kind of give a brief high level overview of how it works? And can you actually consistently win when you count cards?
Colin: Yeah, so I mean, first off, I always have to tell people, it’s perfectly legal, because you’re just using your brain in the casino and fortunately, it’s legal to use your brain. And the analogy I like to give is it’s a mix between chess and extreme couponing. So it’s this game of skill. But it’s kind of this hack where casinos created a game that it’s the only game in the casino where future events are dependent on past events. So if a card comes out of — if they’re dealing, and let’s say a queen comes out, you won’t see that Queen again until they shuffle. Every other game is all independent events. And so someone, a mathematician figured out that this kind of this hack and you can absolutely use it to your advantage.
It is basically a system of just keeping track of what kinds of cards have been played. And that will impact your betting. And then you have to learn the playing strategy and a bunch of other things. But it’s not rocket science; it’s just a system that takes a couple hundred hours to perform. And you don’t — it’s not like the casino has become an ATM where you just walk in with 100 bucks and walk out with 1,000. But it is a very consistent system. If you get in a few hundred hours, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be in the positive. And it scales, like a lot of other investments, where with 2,000 bucks, I was making maybe like $7 an hour, but when we had 20,000 were making $50 an hour, when we had a couple hundred thousand we were making three, four or $500 an hour playing blackjack.
Steve: What is the true advantage percentage wise from a probability standpoint?
Colin: It’s between one and 2%. It depends on how good of a game you’re playing and how good your game is but between one and 2%.
Steve: That actually does not sound like a lot, which implies that you could lose a lot of money before you start winning right? Like, do you have any crazy up and down stories while gambling?
Colin: Oh, yeah, absolutely. So, compared to — I tell people that compared to the stock market, it’s more consistent. If you get in, let’s say a professional card player plays 500 to 1,000 hours a year, you’re going to be in the positive, and you could actually calculate how much you’re expecting to make. But it’s not a large advantage, like you’re going to win every night. You win kind of like 55% of the time and lose 45% of the time. So it’s really important to get enough hours for the math to work out. But as far as myself, I mean, my first trip to Vegas, I had been a card counter for about a year, first time ever went to Vegas. I lost about $40,000 in like three hours and got kicked out of all MGM properties. I was told I couldn’t walk into MGM property and play blackjack again, which is a little bit like…
Steve: Wait, you lost money and they kicked you out? That doesn’t make sense.
Colin: Yeah, well, it’s because they think the same way a card counter does, which is they’re not looking at the short term results, they’re looking at, do I have a winning game? And of course over a long enough sample size, I won all that money back plus a lot more in Vegas, but it was a pretty, pretty rough first trip. And I think that’s like the worst single day I had losing 40 grand, but I’d had other days where I won, I think my best day was about $45,000 in a couple hours and I just couldn’t lose. But again, we’re not looking at the short term. Like any business you want to say, well, what’s this going to do over the long term?
Steve: Okay, and then I always see like in the movies, whatever, like they’ll pull people aside into like this back room and beat you up. Does that actually happen?
Colin: Yeah. I’ve never been pistol whipped for card counting. That’s all Hollywood. I mean, if they even said that you had to go into a back room and you said I don’t want to and they forced you to, you’d have a six figure settlement. So that’s all Hollywood, but they have a right to refuse service. It’s like the no shirt, no shoes, no service thing, a grocery store can say, hey, if you don’t wear shoes, we’re not going to serve you. Well casinos can say, hey, if you’re a winner, not a loser; we’re not going to serve you. And it generally is something like Mr. Jones; your game is too good for us. You’re welcome to play any other games but no more blackjack. And you take it with a grain of salt, you move on to the next casino or even go back to that same casino three months later and they’ve forgotten about you.
Steve: But have you been taken to the back room ever or any sort of side room?
Colin: Yeah, well, only once. There was another time where a guy was demanding I go in the back room and I knew better. I said, no, I’d like to cash out and leave and he huffed and puffed for a while and then he said, cash him out, I want him to leave. But there was one time we had $140,000 in chips to a casino, one casino that we’d just been absolutely clobbering. And when we went to cash it all out, we actually – it was really dumb of us. But it was a team of four of us, and we’d been playing for four days. And we won a whole bunch of money, and we sent one guy to cash out all the chips.
So we thought, if they’re going to back off one person, let’s have it — or back off anybody, let’s have it be this one guy. But it was dumb done to send one guy with that amount of money. So of course, they say, well, how do you have this much money? Are these real chips or are they fake or whatever? And so they said he had to go in the back room. And then basically an hour later, all four of us are there saying, we want to get our money, we’ve got a flight to catch. And it’s the craziest thing, but the casino didn’t even know what card counting was. They’re saying, how did you cheat us? We’re like, we didn’t cheat. We were counting cards.
They said, well, how does that work? And we’re explaining it to them. And then they’re saying like, well, how do how much to bet? And one of the guys on my team says, I’ll tell you for a fee. He was asking casinos to pay him to tell him how we know how to bet. And long story short, they eventually cashed us out. And they sent the letter in the mail saying that we’re not welcome on their property again.
Steve: Okay. Okay. But so you’ve never been like physically harmed or anything or detained.
Colin: Oh no.
Steve: Okay all right.
Colin: I know a couple of guys that have been detained against their will and they’ve all gotten large settlements for it.
Steve: Interesting. My next question actually is you have this business now that teaches people how to count cards. If this system is scalable, why not just continue to do it?
Colin: Yeah, that’s a really valid question. I’d say it’s scalable to a degree. But one of the things that got me really thinking of doing something — well, first off, I didn’t get into card counting to be a card counter for my whole life. It was like a way to not have to go back to Red Robin, and not have to go back to School. Sorry go on. Yeah, I’m a happy customer. So, I wasn’t looking to do it forever. And it was really, really fun when I was playing the first two years and scaling something. I’d never known I could do something entrepreneurially. But then it started to feel like a grind. And then me and the guy I got into it with, we started a team and we ran this team that, like you mentioned won roughly $4 million between the different teams we ran.
And that was really fun for a while, but then it only scales to a degree. You can’t bet tens of thousands of dollars ahead, casinos just can’t handle that kind of money; you’re going to get asked to leave way too quickly. And once we kind of reached its limit, I realized I created a job for myself not a business, it wasn’t something I could sell, or if I got hit by a bus, my family couldn’t sell off the business or anything. So I was looking for something more passive.
Steve: Okay, no that makes sense. And in terms of running the groups, I guess you could have scaled it that way, but it would have been probably a lot of trouble, right?
Colin: Yeah, it was really fun for a while, but then it really started to feel like a grind and I started having more and more kids. I wanted to be traveling less and probably wanted something I could just do from my basement.
Steve: Yeah, I’m just kind of curious. Like, I’ve seen the movies where people have like wads of cash strapped to them. Was that something you had to deal with too?
Colin: Oh, yeah.
Steve: Why do you have to deal with cash? Why not just deposit it in like [inaudible 00:13:19] or something?
Colin: Well, you’d have two reasons. One is you’d have to only travel during bank hours. If you want to fly into Vegas, you can’t fly in Friday night; you’d have to fly in during the daytime. But the second thing is we used to try that and banks would freak out. They’d say — we’d say hey, I’m here to withdraw the $80,000 that I have in my account, and they’d say, well, we don’t have that kind of money or why do you need your money? And it was a huge hassle and so just cash is king. If you show up in Vegas on a Friday night with $80,000 strapped to you, you can just head straight to the strip and start playing and casinos will always take cash.
Steve: What about leaving Vegas, though? Can you deposit it in a bank in Vegas and not have to do that?
Colin: Okay, so the reality is I’ve been backed off from three banks. I’ve had three banks close my account and say, we don’t want your business because they’re so freaked out about cash. And I’ve said, hey, we’ve got accountants, we’ve got lawyers who’ve got a business license, and they say, we don’t care. You’re depositing and withdrawing tens of thousands of dollars every week, and we don’t feel comfortable with it.
Steve: Ah, interesting. Okay.
Colin: But cash is king.
Steve: All right. I was just kind of curious if all the stuff that I see in the movies is true, but I guess there is some merit to some of that stuff.
Colin: Yeah, totally.
Steve: All right, so let’s get into Blackjack Apprenticeship. So first of all, what do you sell? How do you get paying customers? And what does the product look like first of all?
Colin: Yeah, I’d say that our main product is the membership, but we have products from $5 all the way up to $6,000. But we’ve got an iOS app that’s five bucks. But our main thing, the majority of my income comes from selling a membership. And it’s not very different from what you sell. So we’ve got a video course, we’ve got a forum, we actually have training software that we’ve developed, we’ve got a casino database so you can know the blackjack game of every casino in the country. We’ve got premium podcast, stuff like that. And then we have a higher end product which is a live training. So people fly to Vegas for two days of training with me and a group of other card counters. And then the highest product is private training with me where I’ll work with someone for a couple of days, but that’s six grand.
Steve: Oh, wow. Okay, but do you actually train them in Vegas and then take them to the casinos too for the highest paying tier?
Colin: Well, wherever, it’s more if they want me to fly to them, but if they fly to me in Seattle, I’ll go to the — we’ve got hundreds of casinos here in Seattle and I’ll go, I’ll watch them play, after I work with them for a couple days and see how they do in the casino.
Steve: Okay. Now it’s one thing like when you were gambling for this, did you start this business with a list of people who are interested in learning already, or did you kind of start this from scratch?
Colin: Yeah, absolutely from scratch. And we kind of timed it — of course we were behind schedule, but we timed it around the release of 21 the movie, like we knew that movie was coming out, it’s like we got to get this thing up and going. And we got kind of lucky that we got the number one YouTube video for how to count cards and we just kind of rode that wave for a while. But as it started to die down, I was like I’ve got to figure out this SEO thing. And just spent a few months devouring anything about organic traffic and was able to grow and we’re now all the way up to the word blackjack. We’re bouncing around the top three results for that, but that took many years to get to and YouTube has become a huge part of our inbound funnel in the last year.
Steve: So let’s talk about how you have you managed to rank for blackjack, which I imagine is crazy competitive. What are some things that you do in the SEO front?
Colin: Yeah. So I mean, early on, I went for lower hanging fruit just little bit longer tail search terms, but stuff that I thought we could compete for. But at the same time, we would create a page on something higher up like blackjack strategy or how to count cards, and just try to have well optimized pages. Basically, I stepped back and said, how can I create the best page on the internet for this phrase, and really worked on the best content, the most authoritative, the best images, all that stuff. And we’ve created and kind of set it and forget it, while at the same time going for a little bit lower hanging stuff and working on and I would do guest posts and broken links, anything to get quality links, while creating the best content and that stuff just started popping up over time.
Steve: Can we dig deep into like what search volumes you were targeting? Like when you’re first starting out, for example, and you had nothing, what sort of keywords in terms of volume and competitiveness were you going for?
Colin: I think things in the gosh…
Steve: I don’t know, what tools do you use actually first of all?
Colin: So it’s funny because I’ve been out of the SEO game for a few years now, because I have someone that does that stuff for me, he’s part of my team. But I used Google Keyword Planner, I would at times have a membership to Moz and just look at competitiveness, and we would just look for anything we could and do a combination. Most of it was lower, easier to rank for stuff. But we would create these pages that if one day we could get in the top 10 for some of this stuff, it would be amazing. And now we’re in the top three for all of those things.
Steve: And in terms of — I mean, oftentimes writing the best content isn’t good enough. So did you have a specific link building strategy?
Colin: Yeah, so it was a combination of guest posts, so we’d reach out to people. That’s the way it was. I had some e-commerce stores back in the day and that’s why I wrote a guest post for you. I’d reach out to people. I tried to write like the best thing I possibly could and then pitch it to people.
Steve: What was your hit rate actually? I think I can’t remember why I accepted yours because I didn’t even know you at the time.
Colin: Yeah, it was something like how to how to be Amazon’s SEO or something like that. It was like I would niche them or I don’t even remember, but I had like five bullet points and send it to you and I couldn’t believe you accepted it.
Steve: Yeah, I mean, looking back, like I wouldn’t do that ever again, to be honest with you today. But I’m just kind of curious when you were doing that, what was your hit rate like? How many people would you have to hit up in order to even get one yes?
Colin: Oh, I don’t know. Maybe 20 people but we just create a list and I think you were one of those like, well, I’ll go for it. I’m sure he’s going to say no, but apparently it piqued your interest. And I think having that just kind of that, I’d say one thing about card counting is you aren’t going to make it if you don’t take it incredibly seriously and have really thick skin. And I’d say it’s the same for SEO or e-commerce or anything like that, you have to work really hard at it and you have to have thick skin. A lot of things aren’t going to work but you just keep grinding. So it is a combination of guest posts and finding broken links.
Steve: I haven’t had that much luck with broken link, asking people to replace broken links. Has that been a really good strategy for you guys?
Colin: I wouldn’t say really good but it’s been a thing we’ve gotten some good links for. I’ve created one infographic ever but we created an infographic on how to play blackjack and that actually worked pretty well. We got quite a few links from that. And then we started getting lucky with some things. Like Ben Affleck got kicked out of a bunch of casinos a few years ago. He was actually — yeah, so we kind of used that to create an article about why and how does card counting work, why would casinos kick him out and got some links from that. And just trying to keep coming up with ideas and try things and keep reaching out to people and created some training drills that got us some links, and then some YouTube videos would get us some links. And it was just kind of a combination of efforts.
Steve: So this is just like an ongoing thing that you had. Do you have any goals in regards to how many links you build in a quarter or whatever or is this just kind of like this ongoing thing that you’re doing every day?
Colin: I wouldn’t say every day, but I would say maybe like, every year we make an effort of okay, hey, let’s put some work into this, whether it’s on page optimization, because SEO is kind of always changing. Then there was the page speed stuff. When that changes, we got to up our game with our page speed because sometimes it would be like an algorithm update would come out and we would lose some ground. And whenever we would improve things, we wouldn’t just recapture where we were at, we’d actually do even better than that. So until I felt like we really had a good grasp on the traffic piece, we’re always trying to improve either the user experience or the on page or the link building.
Steve: So has Page Seed really made a huge difference, though?
Colin: Yeah, I would say so especially was it in August, there was an algorithm update that came out. I don’t know if there’s a name for it, but we got kind of hit with that, which was, I felt pretty confident in our traffic and our rankings. And talk to Deacon [ph] I don’t know if you’ve had him on the podcast, you can hear that.
Steve: Yeah I will.
Colin: Yeah. And he was like, well, it looks like the two big things with this update that they’re focusing on his page speed, and kind of user experience. And so we really kind of stepped back and the page speed, I thought we’d really solved it because we redesigned the whole site to be faster, but we had just some really heavy assets on some of those pages. And by fixing that stuff, we saw our traffic come back pretty quickly, and then went even quite a bit higher and so kind of kicking myself that we didn’t fix that stuff sooner.
Steve: Interesting because I got hit in August also. I’m almost recovered, but I didn’t do anything with page speed. I’m just — I think my site is okay, but it’s probably on the slower end. What did you do to improve the speed outside of removing images and that sort of thing?
Steve: Okay, fair enough. Cool. So that made a difference in recovering from August.
Colin: Yeah, we’re at all-time highs by far, like considerably in the last couple months. And so we really focused on that. We got hit in August, we spent three months really working on every phase of SEO and it’s been well worth it.
Steve: Cool. Maybe I’ll hit you up for that guy after this.
Steve: All right, so in the beginning you were getting business through SEO. Did you have a the YouTube channel from the start?
Colin: Yeah, we had the YouTube channel from the start. But if I could do that over too, I would have put more effort into it. But we kind of got lucky in the beginning. And then I focused on SEO and I’d go through phases of filming a bunch of videos and putting them out on YouTube, but I didn’t think it was a viable — I didn’t think it was going to convert to customers. I thought YouTube would be some college bros would watch my videos and wouldn’t be interested in dropping 200, 300 bucks for our membership. And it was actually about a year and a half ago, there was a scammer guy on YouTube that was claiming to be a card counter. He didn’t know what he was talking about. And people kept sending me his videos and, and I was like, oh, this is such bad information.
I thought well, I’ll kind of just start putting some good stuff on YouTube again. And we have a little survey when someone buys our membership, and we ask them, the first question is how did you first hear about us? And that YouTube went from about 10% of our paying members to about 50% became YouTube. And so I started really focusing on it. And it’s been, I’d say, the last year and a half. So at first I started doing a YouTube video every other week, because I’m just kind of lazy or don’t like working a whole lot, a video a week sounded like too much work. But when it started working, I decided you know what, for six months, I’m going to do a video every week. And for my business it has been one of the best decisions I’ve made.
Steve: How were people finding you through YouTube? Did you ask them or was there link tracking or?
Colin: Yeah, just this post purchase survey. So that’s the first question is how did you first hear from us? And now it’s over 50% is from YouTube, even though I thought maybe we could grow from 10 to 20% would be YouTube traffic but the thing is video trust is so much faster than written content. When someone sees me and gets to know me, they say — the goal of video is that people can get to know, like, and trust you. So first they have to get to know who you are and they get to know you so much better through video than through a blog post.
They get to like you because they get to know your personality more, and they just build trust a lot more through video. So in the last year, I’ve gone from not wanting to focus on video because I don’t like it. It’s a lot more effort and I don’t like being on camera, but it’s become I’m a pretty big evangelist for using YouTube or using video for your business.
Steve: So for what you teach, I imagine, how do you make sure that what you’re teaching for free on YouTube doesn’t completely encapsulate what you teach in the class?
Colin: Yeah, I was actually pretty worried about that. And I talked to Tim Schmoyer, he runs Video Creators. Actually, I’ve known that guy for like five or six years, and he’s helped me with some of my YouTube strategy, but he said Colin, you got to put some of your best stuff on YouTube. Not all of it, but some of it. But with that being said, I would say, I teach some of the lower level concepts, but I try to do a really good job of it, really high quality, that’s part of it is I don’t give away the best stuff. And then some of it is even like lower level than I would ever put on our video course so just more basic concepts.
But then periodically, I even will post one of our membership videos on YouTube. So it’s some of our best stuff, maybe once every month or so, I’ll post one of those and people get a taste and we’ll put in the comment or in the description hey; this is from our video course. But the second thing I’d say is it’s upped my game for our paid video course. As I’m putting better stuff on YouTube, I feel like I’ve kind of circled back around to our video course and said, hey, how can I make that content even better and so then I’m serving my paying members even better.
Steve: I just want to take a moment to tell you about a free resource that I offer on my website that you may not be aware of. If you are interested in starting your own online store, I put together a comprehensive six day mini course on how to get started in e-commerce that you should all check out. It contains both video and text based tutorials that go over the entire process of finding products to sell all the way to getting your first sales online. Now this course is free and can be obtained at Mywifequitherjob.com/free. Just sign up right there on the front page via email, and I’ll send you the course right away. Once again, that’s Mywifequitherjob.com/free. Now back to the show.
So I guess I don’t really know anything about card counting, but is it involved enough that you can put out one video a week about it? Because you mentioned earlier that it was fairly straightforward what the strategy is.
Colin: Yeah, so I mean, that’s something I’m going to have to figure out is, can I continue putting out a video every week. But some of it is I can interview other people or I think if you sit back and — I’ll put it this way, I’ve been at it for a year and a half of a video week or a video every two weeks, and I’m still coming up with good ideas. And not all of them are. Some of them are just like blackjack strategies that don’t work. And then at the end, I say, if you want a blackjack strategy that does work, you need to learn card counting. And so I can get kind of broader and some of the stuff can be more like how this stuff applies to life or whatever and just get creative with it.
Steve: So can we talk about like how you come up with the YouTube stuff? Like do you do keyword research? Are you very deliberate in what you’re going for, or are you just trying to put out good content?
Colin: So YouTube is really different and that was one of the things that Tim Schmoyer told me, he said, you don’t approach YouTube like you approach SEO. So that’s how I was initially. I was coming up with keywords and YouTube is basically it’s like cable service. There’s all these different channels and YouTube doesn’t want people ever leaving YouTube. So it’s less about ranking for keywords and more about being the content that they serve either on the sidebar or someone gets to the end of a video and then the next thing that auto plays or the suggested content, so which has less to do with keywords and more to do with if someone is interested in these sorts of things, so for you, it’d be some people that are interested in e-commerce. Well, hey, Steve’s channel has really good watch time, really good audience retention; they’re going to serve your videos.
So I thought of it less in terms of keywords and more in terms of, well, what stuff would serve my audience anyway? And then how do I make this video have really good audience retention, like it’s not boring, it’s got good B roll, it’s got good, interesting content, people are going to want to watch all the way to the end and then get people into playlist so they watch video after video. And then I sprinkle in some, just things that I do want to rank for that keyword like how to count cards, how to play blackjack, but that’s more like 10% of it. And the rest is just how do I create really good content that would serve my audience and get people watching on YouTube.
Steve: You know what’s really funny about this column is, so I interviewed Tim on your recommendation.
Colin: Oh, yeah.
Steve: The episode hasn’t released yet. But I also interviewed someone else. I think her name is Sonny, who also does YouTube. And they had completely opposite YouTube approaches. So it’s funny, as she was saying, you got to be very deliberate with your keyword research and whatnot. Whereas Tim was more like, hey, just put out good content with a long watch time and everything just kind of works itself out. I would be curious to see, actually get them both on the podcast at the same time and argue it out at some point.
Colin: That would be great. And I’d say that there’s like I said a bit of both. And I went to Tim’s live event and it’s like kind of like a conference for about 20 or 30 video creators and the guy that kind of led my little mastermind session said, hey Colin, you actually do need more searchable content. Not like that should be my primary focus. But that was a huge boon was to actually say, okay, our last video on something as basic as how to count cards is like 10 years old and so I read them that and that’s done really well. And so it’s I’d say it’s a combination of those things.
Steve: All right and so you have these videos and you’re getting people in the door, how do you actually convert them into sales?
Colin: Yeah, so I spoke at a conference the last time I saw you about this idea, but I kind of stepped back and I had — I used to have like an eBook like a lot of people have, but I saw what some other people are doing with video mini courses and it just kind of made sense to me that I sell a video course. Most people buy our membership for the video course. So why isn’t my free, my lead magnet videos? And so I created this card counting mini course and it’s like five videos and it walks people through kind of gives them a paradigm shift and teaches them a bit and lets them know kind of like separates people that should or shouldn’t become a card counter or shouldn’t buy our membership. And that I think has something like quadrupled our conversion rate, it has been something that forced me to add video to more parts of the website and eventually to say, hey, if this is working so well on the website, why am I not doing this on YouTube also?
Steve: And so that eBook basically is no longer there and you’ve just broken apart that eBook into videos essentially.
Colin: Sort of, I kind of stepped back a little bit. The eBook actually did worse than a previous version of an eBook. And I was like, what’s wrong with it? I asked a few people, they’re like, hey, you’re kind of like overwhelming people with information. And so when I kind of scripted out the mini course, I went a little bit bigger picture and not so much information and that seems to work better. But yeah, the eBook it’s, I don’t know, maybe it exists somewhere, but it wasn’t that effective. The main course was – go ahead.
Steve: So the mini course doesn’t teach you exactly how to count cards, it’s more the higher level like is this for you, and what your goals are for doing this?
Colin: Yeah, so I really want to start with a paradigm shift that card counting is not gambling. We think of it as investing and really like diving into that. How is the card counting thing versus a gambler, and when people get that paradigm shift, they’re either like, oh well, I like gambling, or they’re like, oh, this is for me . And then by the third video, I actually I’m doing some teaching so that people kind of can trust me that I can teach them. But I don’t go too deep into the teaching, because that’s really what the paid course is for and I don’t want to bug people down. I want them to realize yes, I want to do this and then go from there. And there’s plenty more content where I’m teaching throughout the website and YouTube channel that they can digest that if they really want to.
Steve: So your membership site, is it a monthly paid membership?
Colin: No, we used to have both a monthly and annual thing but with a video course, some people they pay like the minimum out and then just binge watch the videos and then cancel was part of the problem. But the other problem is it attracted people that weren’t really committed because you’re not going to learn card counting in a month. And so we kind of scrapped the monthly. And it’s kind of the 80/20 principle where we got rid of a large portion of our members, but they were the biggest pain in the butt customers. They were the people that weren’t really going to become card counters and like the college kid with 19 bucks, not someone that had what it took to really become a card counter.
And when we switched from monthly to annual, our revenue went up and with fewer members. And this has probably been the same for you as you raise prices every six months or a year; you have fewer people but probably more income and focus on people that are really going to follow through.
Steve: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean raising prices was actually the best thing that I could have done because the quality of people improved dramatically.
Colin: Yep, yep.
Steve: So in terms of your YouTube videos, do you have like a certain target length or any just kind of higher level strategies that you try to do for each video?
Colin: Well, when I script it out, it’s all stuff you can learn from smaller or other experts, but I try to hook them at the beginning. And I want to provide content all the way the end of the video. But what I used to do is a sort of wrapping it up thing for the last 30 seconds, but people are just going to leave your video. You want to be giving all the way the end. And my videos used to be like three to five minutes and I was encouraged to actually make them longer and I thought three to five, that’s as long as I would want to watch. But it’s actually been good to make them a little bit longer. They’re in the six to nine minute range. I would say longer than that, I think would be a lot of work for me. So I don’t generally go longer than that.
And adding B roll, it’s amazing. You can see in the retention graphs where people are dropping off. And so not having too long of time of just me sitting there talking helps people stick around longer. So a lot of B roll and getting better at storytelling, not just content, but also anecdotes and things that keep people engaged.
Steve: Okay. And I know earlier when we were kind of chatting, you have a book coming out, how does that factor in the overall strategy? So first of all, what is the book about and what are your goals with the book?
Colin: Yeah, the book is about card counting. And I would — the way I really thought about, it’s not memoirs, and it’s not a like comprehensive how to, it’s kind of my best advice so that someone that’s either interested in card counting or actively counting cards, this would be the best resource they could have to either learn or to have success as a card counter. And the reality is the world’s changed a lot where with the internet, people don’t need something that like fills in every single gap. But 20 years ago, if someone wants to learn a subject, they go to a bookstore and find something that’s everything. Well, now people are going to watch videos on YouTube, they’re going to read online about things.
So I didn’t want to fill it up with things that are all over the website, but with the best advice, best stories I could provide. How it fits into our funnel, I’m not exactly sure yet, but I don’t know. I would say there’s probably no entrepreneur out there that hasn’t thought about writing a book. And it was just kind of an idea. And then, I was part of a mastermind group, and the guys kept saying, oh, Colin, you got to write a book about this stuff. And I don’t know, it just sounded like a fun project. So I wrote it and pitched it to one publisher, kind of my dream publisher, which ironically, this publisher when I told him I was thinking about writing a book, he said, oh, don’t do that. You’re not going to make any money at that. There’s too many blackjack books. But once I’d written it and sent it to him, he was like, hey, we’d like to publish it.
Steve: Nice okay.
Colin: Yeah, so that was I mean, that was kind of a dream scenario. I was going to self-publish if he didn’t want it, but they did want it. And I think it’s going to work in a few ways. One is, people, there’s just — the reality is a lot of people want a book on a topic. They don’t want to just read blog posts or watch YouTube videos, and so it’s going to bring in a different audience. Secondly, it’s going to, I think it’ll actually lead more people to buying memberships, because we’ve got a $5 product and then we’ve got a $250 product. And this will be the $20 product for someone that’s like not ready to drop 250 bucks, but it’ll kind of prime the pump for some of those people to say, okay, I want to do this. And the website will provide the training and the community and all those things that a book can’t provide.
Steve: Does it read more like a narrative or is it like tips?
Colin: It’s kind of a combination. So I tried to use as many stories as I could, but at heart I like teaching people, so it’s really advice and teaching and with as many stories as I could all along the way.
Steve: One thing I kind of forgot to ask you was along your funnel, is it primarily like an email funnel or do you use Messenger or do you use push notifications? Like, what’s your best medium?
Colin: Yeah, it’s email. So even from YouTube, I’m trying to get people into our card counting mini course, which is an email campaign and that’s just always been pretty effective.
Steve: So in terms of YouTube, you mention the link in your video, but what works better links in the video or do people actually click on links underneath the video in the description?
Colin: So we have an end card, and we put that the maximum length it can be, so I think it’s like the last 30 seconds of the video. And in the end card, I’m still teaching, I’m still giving valuable information so people aren’t leaving, but they’re seeing next steps are like other YouTube videos of ours, which will help our channel out, or a mini course, or a subscribe button. So every video, we’re promoting that mini course and just getting some percentage of people over in. And honestly, some people, they don’t go to the mini course, they just buy membership because I built enough trust through YouTube. But I’m always trying to get people into that mini course so that I can kind of nurture that lead further.
Steve: Cool. So what are your plans looking forward for this year in 2019?
Colin: Well, yeah, I have the book coming out. And that should be in March or April. We’re definitely getting pretty far along the process with that. And I want to promote that well and do a good job of launching that. But beyond that, I think I’m going to — I’ll keep doing the things we’re doing for inbound. But I think my personal energy is going to be stepping back and saying how can I serve our existing members better and grow our lifetime customer value? So if someone — get more people keeping their membership for year two, year three, year four, year five, rather than just saying how do I get more people in and out?
Steve: Okay. Yeah. I’m just curious, like I’m just trying to think if I was taking a blackjack class, I would think a year would be enough, would it not?
Colin: Well, that’s where we’ve developed some of the resources that are ongoing. So we’ve got a forum and card counting can be a lonely thing, you want other people that you can say, oh, man, I had this crazy night, whether it’s winning or losing, or hey, what do you guys do in this scenario, there’s a lot of subjective stuff. And so a forum is valuable for that. But we also have a casino database that as long as you’re a card counter; it’s helpful to know where to play, where not to play. And we have some betting software. And so basically, some of it, that’s kind of the software as a service component of the business, not the informational part. So people join for the information, but stay for the software.
Steve: Interesting. That’s a cool model.
Steve: Well Colin, this is all really interesting stuff. And I’m sure the audience is really intrigued by card counting, because I know I am. Where can people find you online?
Colin: Yeah, I mean, I’d say the best place is Blackjack Apprenticeship and that free mini course. Or if you’re a video guy, we’re at BJ videos for Blackjack Apprenticeship, BJ videos is the YouTube channel and currently putting out a video a week unless I get bored and drop it down to every other week. But those are the best places to start. And the book will be a good resource for people if they’re a book reader.
Steve: It’s funny, we’ve been talking about your sequence now, people should just go and sign up for it and watch it for themselves.
Steve: All right Colin. Cool. Well, I’m really glad that you were able to come on the show, and I believe I will be seeing you in a couple of weeks as well, so looking forward to that.
Colin: Yeah, absolutely. I can’t wait and thanks so much for having me on the show.
Steve: All right man. Take care.
Hope you enjoyed that episode. Now Colin’s story is just the perfect example of how you can monetize any skill set you have no matter how bizarre. For more information about this episode, go to Mywifequitherjob.com/episode253.
And once again, I want to thank Klaviyo for sponsoring this episode. Klaviyo is my email marketing platform of choice for e-commerce merchants. You can easily put together automated flows like an abandoned cart sequence, a post purchase flow, a win back campaign, basically all these sequences that will make you money on autopilot. So head on over to Mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O, once again, that’s Mywifequitherjob.com/K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.
I also want to thank Privy for sponsoring this episode. Privy is the email capture provider that I personally use to turn visitors into email subscribers. They offer email capture, exit intent, and site targeting tools to make it super simple as well. And I like Privy because it’s so powerful and you can basically trigger custom pop-ups for any parameter that is closely tied to your e-commerce store. Now, if you want to give it a try, it is free. So, head on over to Privy.com/Steve, once again, that’s P-R-I-V-Y.com/Steve.
Now I talk about how I use these tools on my blog, and if you’re interested in starting your own e-commerce store, head on over to Mywifequitherjob.com and sign up for my free six-day mini course. Just type in your email and I’ll send you the course right away. Thanks for listening.
Outro: Thanks for listening to the My Wife Quit Her Job Podcast where we’re giving the courage people need to start their own online business. For more information, visit Steve’s blog at www.Mywifequitherjob.com.