Kevin Polley Interview

Episode 152

About this Podcast:

Today I’m excited to chat with a remarkable entrepreneur and innovator in digital marketing. Kevin Polley is the man behind ARP Reach, a powerful email marketing tool. ARP Reach has been pivotal for many leading names in internet marketing, offering advanced functionality that rivals even some of the highest level subscription-based autoresponder services. Kevin is also the visionary behind V2 Movement. We’ll find out more about that, but this really underlines his commitment to providing top-notch digital solutions. He’s also the founder of Mutual Advantage, a marketing firm which showcases his expertise in various aspects of online business and digital marketing, so let’s delve into Kevin’s journey and discover the innovative approaches and strategies that he has employed to stay at the forefront of the digital marketing world.

Episode Transcript:

Editor:
Today I'm excited to chat with a remarkable entrepreneur and innovator in digital marketing. Kevin Polley is the man behind ARP Reach, a powerful email marketing tool. ARP Reach has been pivotal for many leading names in internet marketing, offering advanced functionality that rivals even some of the highest level subscription-based autoresponder services. Kevin is also the visionary behind V2 Movement. We'll find out more about that, but this really underlines his commitment to providing top-notch digital solutions. He's also the founder of Mutual Advantage, a marketing firm which showcases his expertise in various aspects of online business and digital marketing, so let's delve into Kevin's journey and discover the innovative approaches and strategies that he has employed to stay at the forefront of the digital marketing world. Kevin, welcome.
Kevin Polley:
Well, hello. Whatever time it is, wherever you are, thanks for listening.
Editor:
Well, it's good to have you with us, Kevin. Now, I guess we should start with asking if you can just share a little bit about your background and what initially inspired you to venture into this crazy world of digital marketing and online business.
Kevin Polley:
I think the best answer for that is I needed to make money because I'm totally unemployable. I started off in 1999 on this online journey, and that was when the internet was in its infancy and I bought my first domain name and at that time we didn't have WordPress or anything, so I went and took the time to learn how to write HTML. And I put this page up and I suddenly realised that, well, how do people find this page that I've created? There's more to this story, so I've got a page that was trying to sell, I think it was gardening services at the time, and I just realised no one's going to find me. And that led me into the rest of the journey, which has involved becoming an SEO expert using schema.org, creating the UK module for one of the original open source shopping carts, creating a hosting company, getting involved in data transit. Literally from 1999 to now, it's been one roller rollercoaster of a ride, and I'm just glad to be here.
Editor:
I can imagine. It all started with your green fingers, is that right?
Kevin Polley:
Exactly, yep.
Editor:
Got a lot to answer for those green fingers. When was this and what were you doing prior to that? Did you have a job? I know you said you're unemployable, but before that, what were you doing before that?
Kevin Polley:
I'm also a coded welder, so from an early age I never used to like getting up in the morning for school, and it became problematic when employers wanted me to turn up at a set time in the morning, and at the age of 17, 18, I never drunk, never ever drunk when I was younger than that, but with the hangover at 8:00 in the morning, it wasn't good. And I suppose my story could go back to when I was 11 and I realised that mum and dad weren't giving me enough pocket money, and my uncle turned around to me and he said, "Well, why don't you start a little part-time job?" And that was the gardening. And if you're that young, there's not many of the older generation that don't need a helping hand, and I tried to be polite, I tried to do a good job and they paid me. And then I got a job in an off licence, and from there, the owner of that off licence, he taught me about working to lists and planning what I was going to do, making sure the customer was happy, so I always had that entrepreneurial streak and it was always based on if I need something or I want something, I have to be responsible for making my way in the world. What was the point of being paid a pound an hour if I was working for someone back then when I could get five pounds an hour by working for the older people helping them, and they were happy to pay me for that? Then I became a DJ when I was 16, and as a DJ it brought together all of my passions at the time, which were music, drinking and women. And the money that a DJ on the circuit was working as an hourly rate was phenomenal, and it just made me realise again that having that freedom and the flexibility to manage your own life, manage your own time, set your own value, it would be the definition, the defining moment for me. And since then, all of the skills that I've learned, the different businesses that I've started up, not just internet publishing businesses, printing businesses, it was that I've got to start something up to make a little bit more money or give myself a little bit more time so that I can spend more time playing music or spend more time on holiday or something like that.
Editor:
What came first in terms of your online endeavours?
Kevin Polley:
The first major thing in my online endeavours was the UK module for Zen Cart. Back then the internet was a new thing, people were being told, "If you're not on the internet, your business will suffer." And in the 1990s we had a nine, six ort modem, there was none of this face-to-face and video. Web pages were words, you couldn't even get pictures on them back then, so there's been this whole technology. And when you wanted to have a webpage, you then needed to find a way to sell it, and that was Zen Cart back then, which was an open source shopping cart. And the problem was that the developers were all American, so if I wanted to sell a batch of leaflets or something like that, the states in the dropdown for the order form were all American and there was no UK module, and I realised that actually there's a bit of an opportunity here. I went in and I contacted the post office, got their first list of counties, and then Royal Mail, their list of drop zones, and I hacked, quite literally... I wasn't a coder then, I'm not a brilliant coder now, I'm a hacker, and that doesn't mean that I'm like Anonymous and I'm going to be getting into your bank account, it just means that I take a little bit of code that's here and a little bit of code that's there, find a little bit of knowledge and make something work to do what I needed it to do. My first step was the UK shopping cart for Zen Cart, and that allowed a couple of thousand people back then to set up their shops and distribute their products around the UK.
Editor:
It was one of those systems that just took the internet by storm as well, because it allowed people finally to make sales online. Then after that, you moved more into software development yourself, is that correct?
Kevin Polley:
From then I used the software development skills that I picked up, hacking PHP, MySQL together to make a module for Zen Cart. I then realised that the next problem in my journey was going to be how do you get found in the search engines? You've now got a website, you've got your shopping cart platform, you've got a way of distributing the goods, but who and how are people going to find the product you are serving or selling in this big online web? I got into SEO at that point.
Editor:
And what was that like, because this is early days of the internet, I guess?
Kevin Polley:
Yeah, that was really interesting. I think the first nugget that I could give people that are listening to this is don't wait for the tidal wave of something to pass you by. Position yourself on the crest of the wave and surf that wave as far as you can. Don't go over the top so you get swamped with it, but surf it. And what happened was I was looking for, rather than how do I get found in search engines, because there were a few people talking about it, I asked a different question. How do search engines work? Because my logic was if I can work out how a search engine works or something works, then I can either be a smarter worker and work with the underlying code and position myself higher or find other shortcuts that get me better results. And back then the answer came from looking on page, let's say 78 of the results of whatever search engine it was back then. Google was in its infancy. And I ended up coming across something called GoodRelations, and GoodRelations was an ontology. And if you've never heard of an ontology and you never hear it again, you don't need to worry about it. It's just lots and lots of words and phrases that are put together, and it's the sort of things that academics and professors use. And I found this information in the University of Munich's website and there was a guy called Professor Martin Hepp, and he'd created this GoodRelations ontology, and basically what it was was special code that was written in something called RDF that you put on a webpage that told the search engines of the day exactly what it was, because back then all these words and pictures are just words and pictures. It's one mass of everything, and this was the beginnings of what I've since learned was machine learning, which has become artificial intelligence. And I learned that these computers needed to understand what a word meant so that if you had cup, it was a receptacle and it might have a handle and then it would have a size and it could have a value. And this ontology, GoodRelations was that effective at getting websites onto the first page of Google that when Google and the other search engines created schema.org, which everybody six years after I was playing with it using SEO, they wrapped up everything I'd learned about GoodRelations and incorporated it into schema.org so that now when you look online and you ask for, I want a new headphones, or I want a new mic, and it's got all of the spec and the price and you see it in the search engines, that is schema.org. And I was playing with that five or six years beforehand.
Editor:
Has that led into your other entrepreneurial developments, if you like? Because I know that you said, so SEO, driving traffic, we mentioned the introduction about ARP Reach, which is email software, email marketing software, am I right in thinking that you acquired ARP Reach and how did that come about?
Kevin Polley:
That was really, really interesting. I'll answer the question, yes, I acquired ARP Reach. Now, if I go back to the year 2000 when I was playing with my first website and everything else that I've just gone on about, I'd learned about email marketing and I knew that once you'd got somebody on a search engine or your site on a search engine and somebody had found you, there were three choices that that person had. That was they could bookmark you, they could go away or they could buy. That meant that after all the time and effort, I'd got a 33% chance of getting the desired result. There had to be something better. And I can't remember how it came about, but email marketing was in its infancy, and I realised that, "Oh, I could pay monthly for this service and I'll be able to put a form on my website, on my shopping cart, and people that now find me because of the work that I'm doing with GoodRelations, they'll be able to sign up for my newsletter list and then I'll be able to email them once a week, once a month, once a day, whatever it is. And that will save me money on advertising." But here's the problem, if I'd have been paying $20 a month from the year 2000 to now, that would've been a lot of money, and that's the basic cost. Again, I used the search engines and somehow I found ARP or what it was called originally was Auto Response Plus, and it was developed by a Brit. He'll tell you he was a Scott, but he was British, which was good enough. It was better than being American. And it was software that you bought once, installed on your own server, on your own hosting, and there were no additional costs other than once a year you paid a small fee to get your updates. And that worked out in my mind to be the best solution because when I was starting up, I didn't know whether I was going to be making money every month to cover the bills, so to buy something outright, have the ability to use it forever just made common sense. And that's where I started my journey into email marketing. I bought Auto Response Plus. Neil Morgan, the developer, took that to ARP 3. That was using CGI and... CGI. I think it was CGI and Pearl, which is old technology. Then it became ARP Reach, which was using PHP and MySQL, which was faster and more current. Gave him a lot more scope in which to develop it, and it worked fine for years. And then he stopped developing it, and I needed to have some customizations done to work with the shopping cart that I'd done for my business, and I wanted it to do more things, and I wanted it to have segments and all of these things that we know and love, and it just wasn't being developed. I reached out to Neil because one of the big things in this business is if you're serious, you start talking to people, you build up relationships with them. You can never underestimate the value of having a good relationship with someone. And if they are a software developer and they're responsive and you're giving them feedback when they're trying new things, I became a beta tester for him, when I said, "Is this going to go anywhere? If not, can I buy it?" He went, "Do you really want to buy it?" I said, "Well, I've built my business around this software. If you are not going to develop it, I've either got to go and start paying monthly, which is going to be ridiculous with the size of my list, or I take it on and try and develop it for my benefit and other people come along." And that's the story of how in 2015 I acquired ARP Reach.
Editor:
And I guess as you say, it saved you a huge amount of money in terms of you'd have been spending possibly hundreds of dollars every month since the year 2000 to grow your list and increase your business. I guess taking that principle and applying it to, well, if I acquire this software, I can then not only not have to pay for it anymore, but also develop it in the way that I need. ARP Reach has revolutionised the business in so many ways. What's next for ARP Reach now that you own it?
Kevin Polley:
ARP Reach has evolved into V2 Movement, so it got to a point where the business model that ARP Reach had for so many years, that meant that the original developer couldn't keep affording to develop it, so the business model of pay once works great for you as a user, but for me as a developer, I'm not getting that regular monthly income. The ARP Reach software, while it's still available at arpreach.com, there had to come a point where to fund the ongoing development and make it possible for me to introduce AI into self-hosted software, which is something I've been working on, I had to think carefully about what I was doing. And it upset some people that they lost their, we've paid for it once, why aren't you developing it for PHP7 and PHP8 and things like that, and the reality is that [inaudible 00:19:57] like that. ARP reach has become V2 Movement, and you can find that at v2movement.com. And I think the interesting thing about V2 Movement is it's still a pay once, you own the software and you pay an annual fee for annual updates and support and things like that, because the cost of it is slightly higher than ARP Reach. ARP Reach varies between 295 and 395 US. V2 Movement is... The headline price is 987, I believe, but obviously I have monthly discounts that come off and things like that, but you get that installed by my team, and then you're also going to get more time with me to talk to you about deliverability. One of the big problems that so many people expect when they buy self-hosted software is they can import in a massive list of emails, press send, and the money will roll in after the emails have been delivered, and that is not the case. You do need to go through a warming up process, you do need to have the technical things done, but once you've got the technical things done, once you've got your V2 software or ARP Reach installed and you follow best practise, it is... In my opinion, it's the best software out there. I still am learning about some monthly autoresponders, but my software does everything I want. It allows me to segment, it allows me to group, it allows me to have autoresponders, unlimited autoresponders. It allows me to send unlimited broadcasts, but the biggest, biggest, biggest benefit for anyone that is using ARP Reach or V2 Movement is I can choose which company, which [inaudible 00:22:16] ESP, smtp.com, Amazon, a host of others, there's 30 other companies that I can use to send my emails out, so if one company is having a problem delivering emails, I'll soon see in the open rate. If I am expecting a 30% open rate and for that broadcast it goes down to 10%, I know that smtp.com might have had a problem or Mailgun might have had a problem, but because the software that I've got, V2 allows me to have an unlimited number of outbound mails being sent by different companies. All I do on the resend is choose a different ESP to send the emails out. Open rate goes up, engagement goes up, money comes in, and I think that's the biggest benefit of self-hosted. After the cost savings, the benefit for most people is having that flexibility to choose who sends your email and not be tired at the hip forever to an autoresponder that you're paying for monthly.
Editor:
I think that's a big thing, isn't it, Kevin? That most people will maybe gravitate towards AWeber, ActiveCampaign, those kinds of companies. The downside of that, as you've pointed out, is that if you have your email list with those people, when you go to clicks send, it will be sent from their servers. And if they are having deliverability issues, which can happen, happens perhaps more than we realise, then you are locked in with those guys. The difference with V2 Movement and ARP Reach as I understand it is you can have your list in your own version of ARP Reach or V2 Movement, but then you can connect it to different email delivery partners. ESPs, email service providers.
Kevin Polley:
Yeah.
Editor:
Okay. Thank you, because that was me winging it. Once you do that, it gives you the ultimate flexibility, but also as you say, it allows you as a business owner to manage the cost of your business because as you grow your business, you've already paid for the software. It's not like with one of these other companies, MailChimp or GetResponse, those kinds of people who will charge you. Every time you add another email address to your list and you get to the next tier, they will charge you an additional fee to be sending those emails, so yeah, many, many benefits for V2 Movement. How can we find out more about ARP Reach and V2 Movement?
Kevin Polley:
I think the easiest way for you to find out about ARP Reach is to go to arpreach.com, and to find out about V2 Movement, which is the one that I recommend that you se. If you are using PHP 8.1 or above, go to v2movement.com. That's all one string and the information's there, the price is there. Any offers, you'll see them at the top of the screen.
Editor:
Great. Great. You also mentioned a little earlier just about AI and how you're implementing that into your business now, particularly into V2 Movement. Why is that important?
Kevin Polley:
I think the simplest answer for that one is if you're not seriously looking at using AI, you're going to be losing out as the years come on. I've already mentioned one pivotal moment when the internet started for me back in 1999 and I jumped on that bandwagon. AI is the next big thing. It's going to help business owners and people that are starting up save time, it's going to improve in efficiencies and it's going to help people make money quicker, but I've got to say that I do have some serious concerns about how people are using AI and the misconception that people seem to have, that AI is going to be the answer for everything. In my humble opinion, I wouldn't recommend that anybody just allows AI to run their business. You've got to have some hard stops in there and run routines. Full automation is never really good for any business. Ultimately, if something breaks at 100 mile an hour, it shatters everything, whereas if it breaks at 20 miles an hour, you've got time to slow down, if we're talking a car or a emailing service or a business. Look at what went wrong, fix it, maybe go back a little bit and then start up again. AI, it's really interesting stuff. For such a little amount of code to have so much knowledge and to be able to work out clever answers to problems, who would've thought back in 1999 that I would be able to literally ask my phone without typing anything in, how do I improve this code and make it work? And the answer comes back as here is a solution for your problem in PHP. And then if you was to ask it, can you improve on that, for it to go, "I'm sorry, here is an improved version of the code that you've just created. Would you like me to do anything else?" It's in the realms of science fiction, but it's science fact and reality now. And I've just got to say again, get involved in AI, learn about AI, learn about the prompts that are going to make life easy for you, but don't let AI run your business from 1 to 100. Break that whole process that you've got down into smaller chunks, let it run the first 20%, 10%, it doesn't matter. Know what you are expecting as a result and look at that result and make sure it is within the parameters of what you're expecting. If it is, then move on to the next step, 25%. Are the results still with what you expected? And then do the next step. Now, depending on how brave you are, if it's worked once perfectly, twice perfectly, three times perfectly, and you're a high risk person and you want to join the first part and the second part and make something that will run the 40%, that's your choice. But there must, in my opinion, always be hard brakes where a human looks at the results you're given and makes a common sense decision. Is this right? Is this what we expect? Because I know for a fact from the research that I was doing back with GoodRelations, there is a garbage in, garbage out factor with AI and machine learning. Machine learning is the bit before you get to AI. The machine has to learn from basic input before it can give you an artificial answer to the question that you ask, so if, let's say there was a time 5, 10 years ago when there were 40 or 50,000 SEOs that were creating web pages that ranked high in the search engines full of garbage material, and your current AI is scraping the search engines to get answers for solutions to questions that you ask, where the answers might not be 100% correct, the solutions that you're going to get might not be 100% correct. The best thing, if you've got the budget, it's cheap enough now that you can get the source code for your own AI module, train it on the material for your business. That's my recommendation. The companies that are doing it for you, they'll recommend you use their training data. How good is their training data? That's a question you have to ask. And don't ignore the solutions that you get. If they say, "Oh, it's 90% accurate," ask yourself, is that 10% a risk to your business moving forward? And as I say to my daughters, if I was performing brain surgery on you, would you be happy? And they said, "No." I said, "If it was a brain surgeon performing brain surgery on you, would you be happy?" And they said, "Well, of course." I said, "So where is that element of risk?" Is a 10% variance in your bottom line acceptable to your business model or not? If it isn't, then train the AI yourself on your business data. If you've got no business data and you're starting up, then you've got to use this data, but bearing in mind that your first party data, when you get sales, when you get subscribers to your list, when you get interest that is unique to your business, treasure that. Treat that with kid gloves and build on that and keep it separate from anomalous data that got you started. And I see that in email marketing with the results that I get out of ARP Reach. My data, I'll regularly get 40, 50%, 60% open rates, engagement rates of 30, 40, 50%. I'm happy with that. Apparently I shouldn't be getting those kind of open rates in my markets that I work in, they should be 20 and 30% with 10 to 15% engagement. It's about nurturing the business and the relationships that you've got and that will make the difference for you.
Editor:
Excellent. And you've written a book all about this [inaudible 00:33:06].
Kevin Polley:
I did. Yeah, I did.
Editor:
Tell us about that.
Kevin Polley:
One of the big things once you've got a little business is writing a sales letter. How do you sell something? Well, you go off and you pay a copywriter 5, 10 grand and whatever for your product. And I thought, "Do you know what? AI should be able to help with this." And I looked at it and I used the skills that I got to create some interesting prompts because AI doesn't have the... It can create copy, but it's not personalised, it's not personal, it doesn't have personality. It's very [inaudible 00:33:53] and dry and it uses terms and phrases that when you've used AI enough, you look at it and you go, "I can tell that that was written by AI."
Editor:
Yeah.
Kevin Polley:
And I was really lucky. Over the years, I've met some wonderful people in all aspects of the business, and one of the copywriters that I met online, a guy called Tony Shepherd, he wrote the copywriting formula. Really simple formula where you have a subject like a headline that follows a formula. You have a process where you identify the problem, you look at the features, the benefits, and then you construct using Tony's formula, a sales letter that gets results. And there's lots of different formulas out there for copywriting. I reached out to Tony after I've been playing with ChatGPT, and I basically used the skills that I've got to create a template that I could insert into ChatGPT, which then when I got ChatGPT to analyse my digital product would then produce this really useful sales letter that has got results. To give you an idea how useful it is, the sales letter that I created for the guide... I think I've called it the ultimate guide to copywriting using AI, and there's a sub-line there. I can't remember off the top of my head because I just call it the AI copywriting guide, but it allows anybody who's got a product to create a sales letter that gets results in roundabout an hour, less the fiddling. Okay, the fiddling is where, okay, well, I need to move this here, I need to space this out. I need to put the subject line in, I need to make this bold, I need to create an offer and put all that in. It works really well. I used my guide to create my sales letter for the guide, and it converts at 23%.
Editor:
Wow.
Kevin Polley:
And then the people that have bought it, they're telling me it's converting at 30%, 32%, 18%. We're so happy, it's best thing. And what's more, the bonuses that you put in, it actually sounds like me that's writing it.
Editor:
Wow. Okay.
Kevin Polley:
I've used AI, it's not a whole automated process, although you could do it. It follows on from what I've said, the do one bit, do the second bit, do the third bit, pull them together, add some manual touches, and you'll get a great sales letter from that. And if people are interested, if I can, you can find that at kevinpolley.com and I'll spell that. K-E-V-I-N-P-O-L-L-E-Y dot com and then forward slash AI copywriting. And that's a special link that will go through and take you to the actual sales page for that, which is really long and we're not going to worry about that.
Editor:
Oh, amazing. No, thank you, Kevin. That's great, and I really appreciate your time today. We mentioned before the web addresses that people should go to find out more about your products and also about you. Can you just remind us again of where we should head?
Kevin Polley:
Yeah, so if you want your own self-hosted autoresponder software, the cheap but effective, very effective original version is arpreach.com, A-R-P-R-E-A-C-H dot com. Just go there, you'll find everything you need to know and a buy button there. If you want the current version, which I'm going to be developing over the next 4, 5, 6 years, and it's got some very special things that you can find on the website that ARP Reach doesn't have, and I think the most important of those is a feedback loop system. If you send emails out via SendGrid or an ESP, as we said before, and they bounce, this system will automatically remove the bounces for you and things like that. You can find that software, I call it V2. The website is v2movement.com, and the reason it's called v2movement.com is I'd like people to rethink about how they do email marketing moving forward and get them to save money. Why pay monthly for something when some of the changes that are coming in, you're going to have distinct advantages having control of your own software? What I will say is if you're listening to this, I've also created a discount voucher for 150 pound, if you're interested in V2. And on the buy button, when you go through, there's a coupon code. If you type in IMNV2, you'll get $150 off whatever the cost is. If I've got a discount, use that coupon code, IMNV2, you'll get another $150 off. And if I can, the AI copywriting guide, we're all going to need sales letters. You can use this time and time and time and time again. That's kevinpolley.com/aicopywriting, and I've got a discount coupon for that for listeners of this podcast. That's imnaicopy, all together, and you'll get $30 off the cost of that as well.
Editor:
Nice. Thank you so much, Kevin. Really appreciate the discounts. Also, really appreciate your time today. It's been an absolute pleasure and we wish you all the very best with your V2 Movement.
Kevin Polley:
Thank you. It's been great being here. Everybody, enjoy business, don't let it get you down. Make smart choices, and I hope that you'll get my software as well. Thanks for having me.

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