Well, I would know!
Marie and I were business partners from 2010-2011 while we created and launched B-School. In those two years, we went from creating the program from scratch to a million dollar launch its second time out of the gate. I learned so much working with Marie, and it’s been incredible seeing her success grow more and more since then.
(You might be wondering why I left B-School: the truth is that it was a side project that became waaay more! Marie and I both had established businesses when we started out with B-School. I couldn’t do both, so I decided to continue with my own business and hand the reigns over to Marie. But I still offer amazing B-School bonuses for new B-Schoolers!)
Wonder what it’s really like to partner with a mogul like Marie? Here are the top five things that I learned:
Marie knows that if she’s having a good time on camera, you’re going to have a good time watching it. You can definitely credit Marie with every crazy video we made to promote B-School! Once I flew out to New York to find that she had gone to a Manhattan costume shop to rent us a variety of matching Lady Gaga costumes, including one that could only be described as a “space bikini”. (UPDATE: Just found that the video is still online! You can watch it here at the bottom of the post.) She was always the creative force in our duo, and she wouldn’t tell me about this stuff in advance. I would just show up and go along!
Maybe there aren’t any space bikinis in the current B-School videos, but if you watch MarieTV, you know what I’m talking about. Marie’s fun, creative delivery of business advice is what has made the show such a phenomenon so quickly.
I like to think that Marie and I both taught each other ways to go pro. I was able to help her lay the foundations of building her all-star team, and when it came to creative matters she always insisted that we go one step farther than the norm. The first year we did B-School we hired a professional camera crew to shoot and edit our videos. Now don’t get me wrong, in retrospect they still look pretty amateur! But that humble start is what has made Marie such a video expert now. She always insisted that we spend the money on top-of-the-line editing, design and production – and it showed.
It’s not like either one of us had piles of money laying around that we decided could go towards professional videos. We just had the faith that the extra spend would pay off. (And we were right!)
You can tell that a lot of the lessons for me in partnering with Marie had to do with creativity. In my opinion, it’s her secret weapon as an entrepreneur. It’s no surprise that she used to be a professional dancer – Marie is excellent at expressing herself in a way that others can connect with and feed off of.
When we wrote copy for B-School, we would spend days sitting around our apartments in New York or LA, just riffing. Often I would type as fast as I could while Marie would talk – she would have moments of brilliance that we could never quite remember afterwards so I learned to make my fingers GO whenever she opened her mouth! We would go to bars, coffee shops, hotel lobbies, whatever and just brainstorm and dream with a trusty laptop to catch our ideas. It was a very iterative process – we would get out tons of language and then just keep improving it until the voice, tone and message were dead-on. We often took ideas from one place and moved them around to another. Marie is a very collaborative worker which would sometimes drive me nuts! It’s my nature to just sit down alone in dead silence and get my work done, but she likes to talk things out and play with the ideas.
This creative process, which seemed a bit “messy” to me resulted in honestly the best copywriting I’ve ever seen. Marie is still using that copy in the 2014 B-School launch because when something works, it works!
Marie is so fun to work with because she takes every idea and runs with it – she wants to not just make it better, but blow it out of the water. She was always coming up with new ideas for how we could exceed our own goals. She really has the ability to let the limits of her mind go, and come up with some big ideas!
I remember we had our “affiliate hit list” of people that we wanted to help us promote B-School. (Now it’s an invite-only program, and Marie literally has to turn away affiliates so that the whole thing can stay manageable and high quality.) But it certainly wasn’t that way in the beginning!
We made a game plan for how we could go all out to reach these guys – and by the way, it was mostly guys. This is kind of funny since almost all of the biggest B-School affiliates have turned out to be women! In retrospect, I’m not surprised at all.
We went to tons of internet marketing conferences to shmooze and further our relationships. For a while we were traveling a LOT, and we’d always share a hotel room since we were talking B-School ideas non-stop! Sometimes that would lead to funny situations on its own – I remember one room in South Africa had a big romantic bathtub right in the middle of the room!
So when we went after affiliates, we went all out. We spent tons of time and money traveling to conferences, and even sent one affiliate an entire CASE of his favorite beverage. When Marie goes after something, she goes AFTER it!
We were at Jeff Walker’s Product Launch Formula conference, another one of our trips spreading the word about B-School and scouting affiliates. (We were also there to learn as much as possible. Marie and I are both big believers in “beginners mind” – that there is ALWAYS something more to learn!)
As we saw speakers up on stage referencing their products, we were clear that’s what WE wanted! If we got on stage everyone would know who we were and hear about B-School.
There was only one tiny problem: we weren’t speakers. And crashing wasn’t exactly going to work.
So we had an idea – we had just had a very successful B-School launch using principles that we learned from Jeff. Every conference loves success stories! Maybe we could get up on stage and share what we’d done. We also had just made a hilarious “fake sexy” launch video that we knew the dudes at the conference would get a huge kick out of it. So we went into action mode!
We (lovingly) cornered Kristen Arnold, a member of Jeff’s team, and showed her our video. We proposed the idea to her, and she said she would get back to us. Very soon after, we got our YES! But they wanted us on stage soon. I remember we were rushing around trying to get our video in the right format on a memory stick so that they could play it for everyone.
In the end, people loved seeing our video, and it was great to be able to tell our success story up on stage. (This was also the conference where someone told Marie we couldn’t do a million dollar launch that year which I think is exactly why we ended up doing it!)
The key lesson in this was that we created our opportunity on our own – no one announced that they were looking for success stories. If you want to have Marie Forleo-level success it’s an important quality to take on – create your own luck, because no one else is going to do it for you.