How did those successful people get so darn successful?

In a recent blog post, I talked about the benefits of staying small and personal.

It’s a competitive advantage we smaller businesses often overlook.

(Partially because when people peddle the “bigger is better, 7 figures overnight” pie in the sky dream, they often disparage those of us who offer high touch services.)

When I delivered that presentation recently, one of the participants asked:

But but but how did <insert name of “internet famous” marketer here> manage to grow so big, so fast?

Here’s how they did it (charlatan version)

You feed money in…it spits money out. Easy peasy.

A long long time ago – before the internet – you would see classified ads about “making money by working from home.” All you needed to do was send $5 and a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Your envelope would come back with a photocopied piece of paper telling you to:

  • Run classified ads to “make money by working from home”
  • Request $5 and a SASE
  • Make photocopies of the note and send it to people

The internet marketing equivalent is a $2,000 “system” that teaches you how to sell similar systems. Make 6 figures by teaching people how to make 6 figures by teaching people how to make 6 figures. It’s all very “meta” – kinda like a gifting circle – but with more webinars.

OK. Snark aside.

How did they do it?

They got their sales and marketing act together.

They got super clear about what they’re selling, who would buy it – and why. (And they chose a target market that was hungry for the sandwiches they were selling.)

They crunched the numbers to make sure that their business idea would work.

They developed a sales and marketing system to sell it.

They crafted persuasive sales copy (the words they use on their websites, sales pages and webinar content)

They made a plan and executed it.

They worked really freaking hard.

If I keep this up for another 10 or 15 years, I might become an overnight success!

Long days. Massive amounts of action. Doing the hard stuff and the scary stuff. Talking to people. Asking for things.

There is no 4 Hour Work Week. That’s just a book title designed to sell.

They may be creating those free marketing webinars, but they sure as hell aren’t watching any.

They have a strategy, a plan and a to do list and they get it done.

They put many years into it.

A lot of those “overnight successes” have been working at it for years.

You might not hear about them until they “became a name” – but in a lot of cases they’ve already put in 5, 10, 15, 20 years.

Daunting, yes. But so far at least we’re on a level playing field. You can put the time in. You can put the effort in.


Sometimes people can shortcut both the time and the work

And here’s where it gets unfair and the playing field isn’t quite so level.

They put lots of MONEY into it

If I invest $100,000 I can have a 6 figure business!

Professional design, professional copywriting, professional video editing, fancy automated sales systems. All cost money.

The ubiquitous Facebook ads, Google ads and re-marketing (seeing their ad ALL OVER the place.) More money. Lots of it.

Paying their affiliate partners. Even more. (50% of their sales)

Then there’s the support team. Look under the hood at an internet famous celebrity’s business and you’ll see that even though it’s just their name on the door, there’s a staff behind them.

Whether they invested their personal assets, borrowed money or got others to invest in them – they spent money to get to where they are.

They did not achieve massive success overnight by “bootstrapping their way” with information from free webinars, unpaid Facebook posts and a free Wix website.

They had connections they could leverage

When your girlfriend/boyfriend/sister/brother/parent/child/bestie is an internet celebrity, they can open doors for you. Just like in real life.

And if you don’t already know people, you can buy your way into the inner circle by joining a high end platinum mastermind program.

Let me introduce you to some of the people I know. I’m sure they can help you out.

They were at the right place at the right time

When you look at the biggest of the big names, a lot of them started long before this “make millions of dollars online” thing caught fire.

They built their businesses back in the days when getting an email was exciting and signing up for an email list was a rare opportunity.

A whole lot more of them started after it became a big thing – but before it reached the saturation point that we’re at now.

They look the part

Take a look at a panel for a conference or online summit.

See any patterns? Notice that the vast majority of successful “business” celebrities are exceptionally attractive?

Oh right…that’s unfair in the real world too.

And also?

I WON. And you can too. Because EVERYONE can win (other than the fact that it’s impossible because winning requires losers…)

Survivorship bias: you only hear the success stories

You hear the carefully crafted rags-to-riches hero’s journey stories of the people who made it to the top. This is called survivorship bias.

You do NOT hear about the thousands and thousands of people who tried and failed.

And some of these people? They invested a lot of time and money as well.

This doesn’t mean it can’t happen for YOU

On the other hand…

For every “internet marketing celebrity” – there are a thousand small, profitable businesses that you’ve never heard of

They quietly serve their local communities – or operate online in a part of the internet you’ve never visited.

They do good work for a loyal group of clients and thrive on referrals and return business.

They spend their days interacting with their clients, delivering services and marketing in a lower key way.

They make a good living – and many of them take home more money than those famous internet celebrities.

This kind of business isn’t a sure thing either, but the odds are better.

Also: it’s a very logical stop on the way to one of those super successful businesses you admire.


  1. Mona El-Masry on March 2, 2017 at 7:59 pm

    Great article! I realize that every time I want to expand my business I come across new obstacles that need to be tackled. It is discouraging at first but I have learned that when I overcome them I educate myself and I lay down some more foundation to build on. It takes a lot of work to build a business but it pays off in the end. Thank you Patty!

    • Patty K on March 3, 2017 at 11:14 am

      I often say that starting and growing your own business is the biggest baddest personal development program out there. There’s always a new challenge to tackle and with each one, we grow our capabilities and confidence. Thanks for commenting, Mona!