When my oldest daughter was born in 2008, my wife and I were in a world of financial hurt.
We were $60,000 in credit card debt. My life insurance business was failing. And we were starting to fall behind on our house payments.
To make ends meet, we were taking monthly cash advances at a 27.99% interest rate from our credit card. Foreclosure and bankruptcy were real possibilities.
Uhhh... NOT the welcome I wanted to give our baby girl to the world.
I don't know if you've ever experienced this sort of financial pressure but the depression and stress are incredible. It feels like an elephant sitting on your chest while 1,000 bees sting your eyeballs.
The problem was my life insurance business. I tried a dozen ways to bring leads into my company (mailers, purchased leads, paid ads) and couldn't get an ROI on anything I did.
But in December 2008, everything changed.
In a last ditch effort to generate leads and sales for my business, I paid a fellow insurance agent, Glenn Cooke, who was getting 30 insurance leads per month from his blog, to set up a Wordpress blog for me. It was a simple site with an insurance quote request form in the sidebar.
It cost me $500.
... which, of course, I had to put on a credit card.
A Proven Roadmap to Success:
I wasn't sure what I had gotten myself into. I thought a blog was something like a MySpace page! :)
But I trusted the plan Glenn had laid out.
Write consistently - this would bring traffic in through Google search
Capture leads - the "free life insurance quotes" widget in the sidebar would entice people to give their name and phone number, meaning I had a way to turn traffic into leads
Call the leads and sell them insurance
I dove into a 47-page guide Glenn included with the site explaining the basics of SEO, blogging, and getting backlinks. It proved to be idiot proof and Insuranceblogbychris.com was born.
Here's a shot of my inaugural post.
My First Big Break (And a Valuable Lesson):
During 2009, I followed Glenn's guide to a tee and posted over 100 articles.
I wrote about:
Policy types like term, universal life, and whole life insurance
Definitions like "what is a rider?" or "what is a two-year contestability period?"
Case Studies - People that I had helped to buy life insurance
Most of the articles fell flat. Insuranceblogbychris.com was a brand new website with zero trust or authority in Google's eyes. I had zero chance of ranking for something like "what is term life insurance?"
But the case studies worked like crazy!
My first big break came when I wrote about a client who I helped get approved for life insurance who had been declined by two other companies because he had a heart valve replaced a few years prior. I titled the article "How to Get Approved for Life Insurance with a Heart Valve Replacement."
That article led to a deluge of leads and sales!
Now, let's be honest.
There aren't thousands of people per month searching Google for life insurance with a heart valve replacement.
But it worked because I niched down on a particular problem some people were having. And it taught me a few important lessons about the value of niching down:
Less competition - I was one of the only ones writing about heart issues at the time so my article showed up on the first page of Google!
Higher conversion - I didn't deal with prospects "shopping around" because my skill wasn't a commodity. When I spoke to a prospect, they bought from me!
The value of being perceived as a "specialist" - I was no longer just the life insurance guy. I was the guy who could help people get approved with heart conditions. This led to a lot of referrals.
I decided to focus exclusively on helping people with health issues. I wrote about helping people get approved for life insurance who were obese, smoked, were over age 70, had diabetes, or had a multitude of other health issues.
By the end of my first full year of owning InsuranceBlogbyChris.com, I had made a couple dozen sales from my little website and earned over $100,000 for the first time in my life.
I was FINALLY able to pay my bills and started chipping away at my debt.
"How the Hell Are You Doing This?"
The following year, 2010, everything tripled... My traffic, my leads, and my income. The site had built some history and trust with Google by this time, and was starting to rank for more difficult keywords rather than only ranking for medical conditions.
And my entire life had changed. I had officially escaped from the prison of debt and financial stress, was earning terrific money, and finally felt accomplished, successful, and proud.
But I wasn't done.
I read all the business and marketing books I could get my hands on from the likes of Tim Ferriss, Seth Godin, and Guy Kawasaki. I followed bloggers and podcasters like Pat Flynn, Amy Porterfield, David Siteman Garland, and Marcus Sheridan. I attended business and marketing conferences like Traffic & Conversion, Fincon, and Darren Hardy's exclusive High Performance Forum.
I learned about SEO, branding, sales, email marketing, and so much more.
It felt like everything I did helped the site to grow even more!
By 2013, insurance agents would call my office almost daily asking me how the hell I was outranking websites like SelectQuote, Prudential, and MetLife.
And here's where things get a bit weird...
These callers were, in fact, my competitors. A smarter person might have wished them luck and turned them away. But I helped them! I took all their calls and consulted with them for free!
When you've been to the depths of despair that I have, you don't want anyone to feel that way.
I decided to build Elifetools.com, an online marketing website for insurance agents and create a course teaching them how to build a site like mine. The only problem was that I had no idea how to build or sell an online course.
But I knew who did!
One of my favorite podcasters, David Siteman Garland, taught a course called "Create Awesome Online Courses." If you're not aware, David was also the previous owner of this website you're on right now, The Rise to the Top.
I took the course and a few months later, launched my first ever online course "50 Leads Per Month." It was a huge success. In fact, I had made over $20,000 pre-selling the course before I even created single lesson!
A Wake Up Call
It didn't take long for some of my students to gain some major traction. A few of them did a little too well and started competing with me on some of the keywords my own site was ranking for!
I'm not sure why I didn't foresee this, but InsuranceBlogbyChris.com was my livelihood. Elifetools was just a hobby and a way for me to give back. I was selling the course for $1200 a pop. That was NOT worth the risk of training more serious competitors.
I quickly pulled the plug on selling the course and went back to working full-time on my site.
It wasn't all bad.
I learned some new skills like how to build and sell an online course. And I learned that I loved teaching and was passionate about helping people with online marketing.
A Life-Changing Exit
By 2018, I had grown InsuranceBlogbyChris.com from nothing to getting 70,000 visits per month and capturing 2,500 leads per month. I had a staff of writers, developers, and designers to help me grow the site as well as insurance agents to field all the leads we were getting.
Here's a screenshot from 2018 that I'm super proud of:
Ahrefs estimated our traffic value at $891K, meaning if you were paying for the traffic, it would cost nearly a million dollars per month to equal the traffic our site was bringing in from organic search!
But after doing the business for 10 years, I had lost my love for it.
I didn't care about insurance anymore.
And I had found my real passion. I wanted to help small business owners with their marketing needs.
I ended up selling Insuranceblogbychris.com to Ad Practitioners (the parent company of Money.com), in a life-changing, multi-million dollar sale in June of 2018.
Since then, I've been working with businesses on their marketing and co-founded a course creation company in the biblical scholarship space, of all areas!
An Opportunity to Rise to the Top:
No one should ever have to experience the soul crushing weight of financial stress that I did.
So when the opportunity arose a few months ago to purchase The Rise to the Top and Create Awesome Online Courses from David Siteman Garland, I was all in!
And I can't tell you how excited I am to be able to help people with marketing again!
My vision for RTT is to empower you with the resources, insights, and a supportive community to help you finally crush debt, enjoy life-changing income, create a funnel, a website, or an online course, take your family on vacations that you never thought were possible, and achieve your business and marketing goals.
The time is now....
Right now, there's a wave of innovation transforming the digital marketing world as we know it. And it's faster, cheaper, and easier than ever for for dreamers, doers, and aspiring entrepreneurs to start (or double down) on their online venture.
If you've ever had a dream to start a new online venture but lacked the know how... you're in the perfect place.
If you're already a business owner and need help scaling your business... you're in the perfect place.
If you want the financial freedom that comes with creating an awesome online course and selling it on auto pilot... you're in the perfect place.
I'm not just here to lead but to walk this path with you. Let's rise to the occasion, together.
I plan to kick off 2024 with a community sprint to jumpstart your projects, backed by an arsenal of free resources and hands-on support.
Expect interviews with successful entrepreneurs, webinars, articles, and much more.
I invite you to check out the RISE Formula to find your place in this journey. And for those who haven't yet joined Create Awesome Online Courses, seize our limited-time re-launch special. We normally charge $1,495 for CAOC but you can get it for a limited time for only 3 payments of $295.