This is a transcribed interview with Marisa Murgatroyd & John Lee Dumas from October 2019, where Marisa shares the genesis of the Experience Formula, and how it became the roadmap that allowed her to turn any course into a viral sensation!
JLD: We’re talking about the three critical elements that’s going to transform any online course into a viral phenomenon. And I want to just dIve right in, Marisa, because there is a dirty little secret in the online world today. The vast and I mean, the vast majority of customers will never not even come close to complete their online course that they purchased. So a few things. Why is this the case? Why is this even an issue that we should be talking about? And what do you recommend doing about it?
MM: Absolutely. So the number is actually 97 percent believe it or not.
That 97 percent of people who buy online programs do not complete those programs. Instead, they enter what I call the downward death spiral, where they get stuck, they get frustrated and they walk away.
And the reason is that people don’t learn from information alone.
And if you’re creating a product and you don’t understand how people naturally learn, especially adults, and you don’t understand how our brain chemistry actually works inside of our brains, we’ve got this limbic system and the limbic system loves to win.
And when we win, when we’re moving towards our goals and getting those wins along the way and that reinforcement every step of the way, it shoots this powerful cocktail of happy chemicals like dopamine and serotonin that propels us to want to do more. But the way so many products and programs are structured, it’s just this load of information, this third factor that many people even teach you to design.
And when people come face to face with all this information, they’re like, “I don’t have time for this — I’m just going to come back to it later”, right?
So if you want to really get people hooked on getting results and taking action and ultimately buying from you over and over again, then you’ve got to create products in a fundamentally different way, in a way that actually, you know, lands with our natural psychology of motivation and gets us excited, almost addicted to taking action.
JLD: The key takeaway here is all we want to do is win, win, win, no matter what. So keep that in mind as you’re going forward in your dealing with customers, with clients that win that desire to keep moving forward, to check that block. I mean I go back to my Mario days. I mean — it was so fun to just raise that little flag at the end of that board and then guess what, you went to the next board and the next one and so on and so forth. And it’s that really seductive and intriguing lure of just continuing to mark down that line. Now, Marisa, why is this a big deal? Like, why should we even care as course creators of people who buy our courses are finishing them?
MM: Well, if you care about your refund rate, you care about referrals, you care about sales, you care about your reputation and you care about repeat sales, which form up to 80 percent of most people’s revenue, then you need to care about their engagement and their results.
So when you all of a sudden are able to get 10 to 30 times the level of engagement and results for someone and you actually do it very, very few people have done in the past, which is delivering on your promises in a way that’s actually fun and engaging. All of a sudden, marketing and sales becomes way easier and people flood into your programs. They refer your programs, your customers become your best affiliate and joint venture partners and you get ridiculous case studies and testimonials.
In my last program, I got over 700 pages of testimonials from one enrollment cycle and I’d be happy to tell you how I got over 700 pages of testimonials and what that did for backend sales and every other aspect of my business if you’d like.
JLD: Decrease refunds, increase referrals, increase repeat buyers, increase testimonials. You got over seven hundred pages of them. Yes, please don’t leave us in suspense any longer. Pray tell.
MM: Well, the very first thing starts with what the promise of your product is about. Because here’s the thing — It sounds simple, but people can’t win the game if they don’t know what winning looks like.
In so many products and programs are simply about information transfer. But there is no clear win state, and by win state, it’s like what does mission accomplished look like? What is someone gonna be, do, feel, have, overcome or achieve? And this should be so specific that you could film someone crossing the finish line to mission accomplished.
They’ve either done it or they haven’t. It’s what I call a binary state.
So, for example, in my experience, product master class, the mission is to design market and make two thousand dollars or a whole lot more in 10 weeks or less with an experienced product, the kind of product that I’m talking about here. And because that mission is so specific, people know exactly what it is that they need to do and how long they have to do it. And that makes winning a lot easier.
And I’ve given my customers something that they haven’t had very often in their life, which is the clarity of exactly what to do.
And the focus of choosing to do only that. And because of it, we have a ridiculous number of people who actually cross that finish line and make money. Some people make up to three hundred thousand dollars. And when they do, I like to kind of build into the program giving testimonials. So, for example, and I was just coaching Mary Morrissey’s team on this on how to get more testimonials.
So we create graduation bonuses and mission accomplished bonuses to celebrate their winning. And just when they finish the program, even if they don’t make the money, we give them a bonus. And when they make the money, we give them a mission accomplished bonus. And the only way to claim that bonus is to submit the story of their success.
And I justify, I give the rationale that we have this bonus because we want to see how well they’re doing and how well we’re doing. So that’s how we got over 700 pages of testimonials of people who finished the program and people who made a lot of money. And then we were able to give them the gift. So I’d never have to ask for testimonials., they just come pouring in.
And I’ve got way more than I could possibly ever use to choose from and share with all the people who are considering my program in the future. So having that clear mission state as well as a clear mission accomplished state and then creating something in that mission accomplished moment that gives you a feedback loop back so you automatically generate testimonials as one great thing you can do.
JLD: What is the clear win state? You need to first identify that as you continue to stack all these other dominoes that Marisa is talking about to get these endless testimonials that’s just come flooding in. And the reality is this buyer skepticism is an all-time high, but why is this the case, Marisa, what are you seeing?
MM: Yeah, a number of things are happening. One is that people have bought a lot of programs. The information product industry has gotten to be fairly mature and many people have been doing products the old school way information products rather than experienced products, which is what I’ve been pioneering.
And because of that, people have gotten stuck and frustrated and walked away and felt like this program didn’t work. The number of people told me they’ve taken programs from all the major business mentors out there and none of them got them results up until now is just huge.
So if you’re designing programs just based on your expertise, you’ve got to understand how to actually design programs that engage people. Because too many people have been let down in the past. And I’ve got to say, my sales team, my marketing team, it’s the biggest objection that we’re seeing now is I’m already in a bunch of programs. I did all these programs, invested all this money, and none of it’s worked for me.
So that’s one of the biggest reason why there’s less trust and as the options just continue to multiply. People don’t know who’s the real deal and who’s not, until you start to get this track record that starts to speak for itself.
JLD: Marisa, we have this amazing idea for a product or service or a community. We spend all this time and money creating this product or service, and then we spend money advertising for it, getting affiliate partners, building it out, putting it behind paywalls, doing all the funnels, all these millions of things, so much effort, so much work. And then guess what?
We get people to actually buy the course or the product or the service or join that community in hallelujah. Like that’s the all time best. Or is it because the reality is refunds are at an all time high as you go through everything that I just shared right there. You actually get the person to buy the buy now button? And guess what? They refund 10 days later, 30 days later, 100 days later, however long it might be.
And it can absolutely devastate your business because you’ve done everything you can to get them to buy and then you lose them because there is refunds. And there’s specific reasons why. So why are these refunds at an all time high, Marisa?
MM:Yeah, for a number of reasons. One is if people can’t see what winning looks like and two if the experience of getting into your program is too slow or too confusing.
A lot of people say the most important moment in your relationship with your client is a moment that they buy. And I would say that the most important moment is actually the hour after they buy and how you start to deliver on your promise, get them into action on moment one of day one after that purchase and get them so excited to continue because they instantly realize this is a different experience. This is different from anything else that I’ve ever done.
And I can see if I just keep taking action, I’m going to hit mission accomplished. So you want to get super serious about what happens after someone buys both the first moment, the first hour, the first month. And when you do, you will see that refund rate drop in a huge way.
I actually worked with Josh Turner’s team on the appointment generator launch and we took his refund rate from a double digit to a single digit refund rate, and that kept at least six figures in his bank account. So when you actually do this, it makes a massive difference.
I’ve seen it in all kinds of ways, but beyond people not refunding. If you can have 10, 20 percent of your customers enroll into your high end programs from this, because they got such huge results, that’s going to not just reduce the refunds, it’s going to increase the amount of sales that you have moving forward. And that’s a big deal.
JLD: So what are some of the things you’ve seen people do in that first hour, that first day, that first week, their first month that you would really recommend our listeners do all these think about employing?
MM: You want to start the winning cycle. So, for example, instead of having people go to their inbox to dig out an email and kind of in the meantime, get distracted by all the other emails in their inbox and then try to log on to a membership site and then figure out where to watch and what to do, right there on the confirmation page after they buy — I get them to take their first action and achieve their first win.
And I got to say, when you’ve got a clear mission, it makes product creation a lot easier because you can exclude everything from your product that doesn’t directly get them to mission accomplished. And so often us experts, we over give and we over create because we want to give people everything. But the truth is, they just want to get the result as simply and easily as possible. So when you get them to take action within minutes of buying and actually achieve that first win, that’s gonna do wonders.
So, for example, after people buy my experience product masterclass, I give them what I call the Show Me The Money video.
And in that video, they get to map out exactly how they’re going to put the money that they just invested back in their pocket within 10 weeks or less. And so they set the minimum, the target and the stretch goals for the product. And the other thing that I do in that video is it’s so easy that anybody could complete this. There is no room for error or confusion or ambiguity, actually give them formulas to calculate exactly what their financial goals should be based on how much money they’re currently making or not making, if the case may be.
So it’s one of those fail proof trainings that has everybody win right away and create what I call a future self vision, which is another element of the experience formula, and this is the vision of what their life is going to look like once they achieve that goal. So it’s important to continue to reinforce both the mission and the future self vision throughout your entire program, it’s not just a marketing promise, It’s actually the container for your program.
And like I said, that simplifies product creation. It also allows you, if you’ve got any kind of group coaching component, to say something is beyond the scope of the program. And keep people hyper focused on both what they need to do and how amazing their life is going to be once they’ve done that.
JLD: So you make a pretty bold statement. The businesses are shutting down in record numbers. Can you back that statement up and then share why this is actually happening?
MM: Yeah, I’ve actually had at least three of my very close friends who have multiple seven-figure businesses that have been around for, you know, five to 10 years and are legends in the industry shut down in the last few years.
Now, not all of them shut down because of declining sales and launch numbers, even though that was a piece of it. But many of them shut down because they fell out of love with their business. And a lot of times when you’re not seeing your students, clients and customers getting results, it’s a lot harder to keep showing up and delivering the same program over and over again.
Plus, it’s not a whole lot of fun.
And so the way I’m talking about product creation, it’s way more fun for your students, clients and customers. And that’s way more fun and rewarding for you as well. And it helps you buck the trends of many of the major launches that are starting to underperform.
And I’ve seen our launches increase every single year. Last year, we did over a 1.5 million dollar launch. And I’ve seen many of my peers and I don’t want to name any names have their launch numbers declining over the last few years as the competition is higher and email deliverability goes down. And Facebook ads are becoming more and more expensive and the inventory is being sold out. So I’ve seen this trend over the last couple of years in the industry.
But when you have products like the ones that I’m talking about that deliver real results, you can buck those trends because you’ve got a reputation-based business that’s based on results and engagement. When you can back up every promise you make with. I haven’t just received 700 pages of testimonials over three years, I’ve received over fifteen hundred pages. When you can back up your results with those kinds of student case studies, it really changes your marketing.
JLD: You have quite a story about Pokemon Go. Break down the story for us.
Marisa: Yeah. So I had an all time low moment when I created my very first program and I was just noticing people were not finishing and I poured my heart and soul into this program. I put all of my knowledge into it, which was one of the biggest mistakes in a rookie mistake that a lot of people make is trying to put all of their expertise into their first. And what year is this about? This was 2012. It was a long time ago. So I actually was in a conversation with a peer and I was mentioning, is it common for people to not finish and not get results? In what she said kind of shocked me to my core. She said, Marisa, some people just aren’t meant to be successful.
And that did not land with me because I thought, well, isn’t it our responsibility to basically set people up for success? I know I can’t be responsible for people. I can’t take the actions for them.
As Jim Rohn said, you can’t hire someone to do your push ups for you. But I could be responsible to them and do absolutely everything that I could to stack the odds in their favor and create a game they could win. So in that moment, I decided to start experimenting with product creation and creating products and curriculum and radically new ways.
And then all of a sudden in the summer of 2016, something happened that completely changed the way that I approach products. And that thing was Pokemon Go.
Basically overnight, this game exploded. It made $200 million in the first month in a billion dollars in the first year. And there’s video footage of grown adults basically stampeding through the streets to capture these little virtual Pokemon on their phones. They were double parking their cars, getting out and just like dashing through Central Park or all these public spaces in this frenzy.
And I kind of thought to myself, if a silly little game could get grown adults to get that excited about chasing virtual creatures, could we use the same phenomenon to get adults so excited about chasing their biggest goals in life and overcoming their greatest challenges? In that kind of set about my obsession to kind of crack the code on how to do this using not just gamification, because it’s about more than that, but understanding adult learning theory, the psychology of motivation, and how do you create these addictive experiences that are positively addictive, addicting people to their life goals.
And that started me on a course of studying, you know, all the best apps, all the best video games and understanding how can we apply those same principles to people’s life goals. And the results that I’ve seen have just been phenomenal. I mean, I’ve seen people get between 10-30X the industry standard results in getting anywhere from I’m talking about thirty to 93 percent of their students across the finish line a then mission accomplished. And that’s a huge jump for our nation.
JLD: Yes. We need to always, always be studying success. There are bread crumbs. There are clues. Step by step, if you look at success and follow that process, that’s exactly what you did with Pokemon Go. You saw the success, you looked into it and said, I can apply this to my business, to my life, to my courses. And guess what you did. And now you’re is pioneering that thing for entreprenuers. Now, we did talk about how we’re going to study your success specifically with that 1.5 million dollar launch. So, Marisa, break that down.
MM: Yeah, absolutely. Just one more point about what you just said is that the app and game industry has been growing by about 270 percent per year in the traditional information product industry, the self-paced learning industry’s been declining, declining by about 7 percent a year. So that tells you something about applying the principles in one industry to the principals in another. Now, when it came to our $1.5 million launch last year, we actually applied the very same principles that we’re applying to product creation, to marketing.
And by doing that, we got people really hooked on our launch. I mean, we were seeing crazy numbers of comments. I think we got something like a thousand comments over the two weeks that we launched and people were really engaging in doing the work.
We were getting them into action because remember when I said that there are these 10 core principles to experiencify your product and get people addicted on achieving their goals through you?
Well, we talked about mission. We talked about mission accomplished. We talked about future self. Now another one of them is constant wins. And I’ve got a good friend who’s a data scientist, and she’s worked with some of the top companies. And one little hack you can integrate into your launch is that if people take three actions with you before you ask them to buy, they’re way more likely to buy from you at the end of the day, because they’ve already created results in advance and momentum through your marketing before they’ve even spent a cent.
And so what I made sure to do in that launch is not only use some of the other experience, you know, experience as an experience formula such as peak emotional experiences and really creating unexpected surprise and delight moments for people watching our launch. But I got them into action, I got them to start winning right away. And so they already started to associate me with someone who allows them to win and get those happy chemicals in their brain fired up.
So we integrated all these principles, all 10 of them throughout our launch. And because of that, we basically did something like for a partner eleven dollars and 47 cents EPC — that’s earnings per click, which is crazy. And we did overall fifty dollars per OPTN. So everyone who sent at least 50 options to us made at least one sale. And those numbers are not numbers that you’re seeing very often right now.
JLD: So let’s dIve a little bit more into these specifics of the actual launch itself, because you had that 1.5 million dollars, you had all of those top partners who were lined up to promote you when launch day came. How did that look? Did it all come in one big rush to happen over the course of the launch? What did you do during launch to actually continue to effectuate sales? How did that look?
MM: Yeah, absolutely. So we did a product launch formula launch with three videos and three lead magnets. But it’s really about how we did the videos in a radically different way. So, for example, when you watch one of our videos, it’s not me as a talking head. It starts with these very, very creative, kind of like segments that are completely unexpected after someone opts-in. And I don’t want to say exactly what they are because you’re kind of got to watch them to see.
But when they someone’s dropped into this world, which is so different from the standard marketing videos that people expect, where I’m engaging all of my visitors, I’m not just talking to their heads, but I’m engaging them emotionally, I’m engaging their curiosity, I’m using really interesting, you know, B-roll and footage and just doing things that most people aren’t doing to really make those videos almost more like entertainment as much as they are information.
Because remember, we don’t learn from information alone. We learn from experiences, which is the whole idea behind the experience products and experienced product phenomenon. I guess here’s the thing. If people could learn from information alone, then we’d be living in Googletopia. We’d have all our problems solved. We’d all be rich and happy and hot and having the best relationships and sex of our lives because we’d know how to do everything from the freaking internet.
But the truth is that more information has not made us happier. In fact, happiness rates have been going down since access to information is going up and it’s been more like a Googlepocalypse.
So when it comes to marketing, you’ve got to go so far beyond providing information and training people around your topic to actually create the transformation. So my definition of marketing is to create the attitudes, beliefs and conditions that people need to make a change in their life that they want but haven’t been able to say yes to on their own.
So marketing is the process of paving the way to someone believing that they could actually achieve the mission that I’m presenting to them. So once they believe they’re gonna be way more likely to sign up and work with me because I’ve helped through this entire launch, not just entertain them, not just educate them, but help them create those attitudes, beliefs and conditions so they can actually go after their life goals. I start that winning process. I create a future self vision. I engage them in so many different levels beyond their intellect and what I’m doing all of that simultaneously, then people want to tune in to the next video and the next video and my webinar and my livestream than buy in record numbers and then ultimately consume my product in record numbers because I’ve created that experience all the way through.
JLD: This information overload that you’re talking about, It’s so real because it’s truly created the compare and despair society. I mean, of course, you know, we can always log on to see somebody who’s happier in a better place than we are with a better car or a better house or better weather or a better shirt or better or better dog or a better cat, whatever it might be. It’s all out there because there’s endless, endless amounts of information and images and videos and fill in the blank.
And just remember when every year comparing yourself to anybody or anything else, you’re just opening up the door to despair. The only comparison you should ever make is to you yesterday. If you’re winning that comparison, you’re winning at life. Marisa, you’ve created a formula. Talk to us about this.
MM: Yeah, for sure. So I’ve already mentioned a few of the core principles we’ve talked about mission, future self vision. We’ve talked about constant wins. We’ve talked about mission accomplished. We’ve talked about peak emotional experiences. And there are five others from normalizing challenges to creating feedback loops to leveraging community, to creating the bird’s eye view so they know exactly how to get from mission to mission accomplished and ultimately building unstoppable momentum to get them across the finish line.
And the really interesting thing is when you understand how to leverage all ten of these experiences simultaneously and stack them together, you create what I call experience escalation. And that’s the phenomenon when people start to feel addicted to your product.
And this is leveraging addictive addiction in a positive way, not a negative way in the sense of helping people follow through on a commitment that they’ve already made by investing in your product. And it’s the exact opposite of what most information based products do that lead to 97 percent of people giving up, and that is create what I call the downward death spiral. So for each of these 10 core experiences, there are actually 10 opposite experiences that you really, really want to avoid.
So you can get people excited rather than frustrated. You can get them winning rather than feel like they’re on a losing streak that they cannot break. So those are the 10 core experiences. Obviously, there’s a lot to them and probably more than I can share in our time together. Is there one in particular that has piqued your curiosity?
JLD: You know, I feel like they all kind of have my curiosity. I think we can agree to avoid this downward death spiral, but Marisa just whichever one you think. Take that one. Let’s go to town on it.
MM: So, absolutely, I want to talk about one that’s not often talked about and that is Normalizing Challenges.
In the Downward Death Spiral, the opporsite experience from Normalizing Challenges is what I call Everything Is Awesome.
If you ever saw the Legos movie, there’s a song. “Everything is Awesome”. I feel like so much marketing is like that. Just push the easy button and your life is incredible and you’re going to be an instant millionaire. Right. And then when people get into your program, the natural expectation is that it’s going to be easy.
And then when they hit their very first challenge, they’re completely unprepared for that challenge. And they may even think that something’s wrong with them. So understanding exactly the psychology of your audience, each step of the way of your program, that’s gonna help you constantly address and normalize the challenges en route from mission to mission accomplished.
And when you do this right, the phenomenon people will have is that you’re almost reading their minds, that you give them exactly what they need, when they need it.
And the best way to do this is to the very first time you deliver a program, deliver it to a live audience and take what I call it earn while you learn approach. Because that way you’re watching them. You’re seeing the questions on your content. You’re in the Facebook group. You’re watching what they’re stuck on, and then you’re kind of designing that into your next trainings, into your next emails. And you’re even featuring some of the things that they’re saying back in your trainings. That’s what we do with the feedback loops, which is one of the elements as well as like people almost change your product by going through it.
And when you do it, they’ll feel so seen, so cared for and so validated that they’ll really appreciate you as their particular mentor and want to work with you again and again because you’re real.
You’re not just promising the sun, the moon and the bag of chips. You’re actually showing them exactly how to get there. And you’re saying, you know, you are gonna have some rough spots on the way. You’re getting real. You’re not just saying it’s gonna be fast and it’s gonna be easy.
And, you know, you can have all this overnight without any work and making money in your sleep and all that stuff that so many people have done. And it’s that hype and some of those false promises which has created the level of distrust that we’re now seeing.
JLD: Authenticity, transparency, just being genuine. I mean, however, you got to where you’re at now, you had struggles to get there. You’ve had struggles. I’ve had struggles just sharing the fact that that is part of the journey. That’s the reality.
But, hey, that’s just another reason why you want to jump on board, because you’re going to have the community, you’re going to have the accountability, you’re going to have the support and the guidance that you need when you hit these rough spots. So, Marisa, you dropped so many value bombs. But what’s the one thing that you really want to make sure that we get from this entire chat today.
MM: Yeah, for sure. So so much of this has been inspired by a quote from the motivational speaker. Zig Ziglar, who said You can have everything you want in life if you’ll just help enough other people get what they want.
And I feel like when you return to focusing on your audience in your business, in your brand, in your marketing, really focus on helping them get results, helping them engage, all of a sudden your business takes off. And I feel like it’s so easy to get into the perspective of what you want to do and what you wanna deliver.
And there’s so many lifestyle entrepreneur messages out there, which makes it sound like it’s all about drinking pina coladas on the beach. And I’ve got a lot of freedom in my business. I love what I do. You know, we’ve had tremendous success.
And I always have to remember that the reason for that is my students, clients and customers.
And when I focus on them, when I put them first, everything else kind of takes care of themselves. And I do believe that the more the competition you know increases and more people get on line, that it’s the best product, the best brand, the best idea and the best customer experience that’s going to win the game. And when you remember that and when you focus on delivering as much as you focus on selling and marketing, you can win the freaking Internet.
So that’s my recommendation for you, is to focus on helping other people get what they want. And when you do, you’ll get everything that you want and more.
And if it helps, I’ve put together all 10 of the experience formula principles that we’ve talked about today, as well as all 10 of the things that you want to avoid if you don’t want people to walk away from your products, programs and courses into a viral product checklist, or 10 ways to create addictive information based products, training programs and online courses. You can grab that on the right hand side of this page!