How do you go from Tragedy to Triumph to Roommates with a Homeless Man to Producing a Movie Starring Renee Zellweger?
Wendy Stevens hit rock bottom after a bitter divorce, tragic car accident, and legal problems left her a struggling single mom, 90 days from losing her home. Her children were her rock and motivation that made her find a new path and figure out a way that worked. She blazed a new path for herself in the world of marketing in the wild west days of the internet. Tune in to hear her remarkable story of determination and resilience that led her to be one of the top Guerrilla Marketing experts in the world, inspiring millions along the way.
Click to Read Transcript
Pamela:
Welcome to Underdog. Today we have a very special guest Wendy Stevens. Renowned Guerrilla Marketing expert, Wendy Stevens has coached and trained more than 80,000 people in 136 countries to master the art of guerilla marketing, lead generation, and sales. She was the creative executive producer and marketing consultant launching podcasts for America’s number one brain doctor, Dr. Daniel and Tana Amen. She launched her first podcast in 2014, Guerrilla Marketing to Women, to new and noteworthy status on iTunes. Stevens has also consulted, launched, and marketed shows for Dr. Daniel Amen, Sharon Lechter, co-author of Rich Dad, Poor Dad, and Mathew Knowles, the father of international music sensation Beyonce. In October 2000, Stevens was one of the first Google AdWords certified specialists catapulting her marketing career. Wendy Stevens co-authored The Best of Guerilla Marketing with the late and great Jay Conrad Levinson, the father of Guerilla Marketing and well-known marketing author Seth Godin, with over 21 million copies sold. Forbes named this brilliant masterpiece, The Original Guerilla Marketing 1986, one of the best 100 business books ever written. Today, we welcome Wendy Stevens. Wendy, how are you?

Wendy:
I am doing great, Pamela; thank you so much for having me.

Pamela:
Thank you so, so much for being here. Now many of you don’t know how amazing Coach Wendy is. I’m just gonna let her talk about her incredible story and you’ll see how fired up she is, how fired up I am to have her here to share your story with you. So coach, from the top.

Wendy:
That’s so funny. Oh, let’s talk more about mee mee mee mee mee mee mee mee mee let’s just take the parts that would be relevant for someone riding along listening, you know, I’m not all that. But I’ve had some really cool opportunities. I was very much a broke struggling single mom 90 days from losing my house. And that was back, right at the beginning of 2000. And I had no business, no marketing background, no college degree, I had been a jock, an athlete. I played on the US team for women’s lacrosse; I captained the NCAA championship team at Maryland. So my whole identity, Pamela, was as an athlete… I didn’t think I was good enough. I had a family of Ivy League degrees. My dad was head of a medical school. I just hadn’t found my place that I felt like I could be successful in the business or marketing world.

So to answer you, Pamela, to be able to stay home full time with my kids. I’m literally about to lose my house. I can’t afford to make a mistake. And I put everything I had on the credit card. And it was to become one of the first 200 Google AdWords certified specialists. Imagine that Google, like, opens the doors, the first little workshop, and I got to be one of those first 200 people, and I found my gift. And I bumped into two of the guys that did the marketing for Kevin Harrington, the celebrity that hosted a television show called The Shark Tank. I got to work on the early campaigns for Hulk Hogan, George Foreman Grill, some really cool things. And I found my creativity came to life in marketing in a beautiful way. And then I learned from some grandmasters like Jay Conrad Levinson, the original father of guerrilla marketing that ran the Leo Burnett agency for New York, Chicago, London, Korea… brands like the Marlboro Man, ‘Your in Good Hands with Allstate,’ Old Spice, hundreds of iconic brands, Pamela, so I got schooled and found myself as online marketing was literally kicking off partnered with two gentlemen. And we launched something from the direct sales world that was called the reverse funnel system. And it was your magical online funnel to make you money. And we had $146 million launch with our own product, over five years, $146 million. So that was a little exhilarating. And I found leads, traffic, and sales to get my full attention. And from there, people want to learn how to do it. And that’s really how I got started.

Pamela:
That’s incredible. Wow. That’s all in a nutshell, which is incredible. Thank you for that. Now, question for you… so when it comes to Underdog, I always talk about what the struggle was like at that moment, right? So when you hit a point where it’s almost, you feel like you’re at rock bottom, like what goes through your mind? You know, what, how is the thought process because I remember myself being in those moments, way back when, and just it feels like you’re in survival mode, almost like fight or flight type response. And it’s always helpful to understand like, what was the mentality, like at that moment where you were going through those struggles and sort of how did you pivot past it to get to the point to be like, Okay, I’m moving on to this and to have the faith and that sort of what was your, what was the struggle, like, at that point in time for you?

Wendy:
What was interesting, it wasn’t even like I’m moving on. It’s like I was under water, you know, grabbing for something to hold on to. So literally, I remember looking at the circumstances, and if you look too long, and how bad it really is, I think we’re driven, all of us are driven by what we value. So without consciously thinking about it. I personally, had it modeled for me, that to be independent, to be free, and to be independent, was more important than any other one thing. I learned that by watching my father some circumstances, we all do, we watch people around us. But to me, you know, I can sign a deal for alimony with nasty golden handcuffs, which meant the very reasons my marriage fell apart in the first place, I’d be stuck to, and dragged along through the dirt, you know, on my wrist by a horse, if I just gave in to that. So when I made the choice that hey, I’m not going to do that. I have two beautiful kids depending on me, my back up against the wall. I have no idea how, Pamela, I’m going to do this.

But the pain of I’m not going back as God is my witness. I am not going back to that. And my boss’s company in Nashville is training out close to the Opryland hotel. I remember, I had to leave early one day. And I remember the VP saying to me, “you know, Wendy, if you have to leave early again, to pick up your daughter, you might find somewhere else to work.” Well, that didn’t really float for me. But what was great about that moment is I was done, like, no way you’re sticking my nose in that. So the drive to be independent and free, even though I didn’t know what to do next. It was kind of like burning the boats. It was like I am done. I don’t know what’s next.

But actually, what was next was answering an ad in the newspaper, Pamela, that said, Director of Sales, no travel. That was the ad that got me to a Google AdWords workshop. How ironic is that, that they would use newspaper to get you to a Google Ads workshop. So why it was the decision actually, that I was done. And that was driven by how important those values were to me and that I had two kids, depending on me, I couldn’t fold up my tent. So if it’s, you know, cower on the floor, or fight, I’m going to be that fighter. Definitely.

Pamela:
Absolutely. So those values are sort of what drove you to keep going to think like, we’ve got something better, something better is on the horizon. That was kind of your mentality, what was like the thought process that got you over the hump to be like, okay, we’re gonna keep rolling.

Wendy:
I gotta tell you that it was less about I knew there had to be something better. Way more about I’m doing that, like, I’m doing that. And so yeah, I just want to be clear, such, you know, an underdog plan? No, it was I’m not willing to do that. And I’m so not willing to do it, that shutting the door on that meant that there had to be something else. I had no idea, no flippin idea what it was going to be, how it was going to happen. So I just, I closed the door. And then I started doing what anyone has to do, which is like, Okay, how am I going to keep this house? If I can’t feed my kids? It sounds silly, but it’s actually not, you know, I could have lost custody of my children. And guess what? I’m a mama bear. And mama bears take care of baby bears. And so like, I am going to flip and figure it out. But I remember there was a formula demo that wasn’t going to work for me. My children went to a private school in Nashville called Emsworth, and school was $20,000 a year per kid, and this was pre-kindergarten, like, first thing, right? Yeah. So it costs more to send one of my kids to that private school than I made in a year. So that formula didn’t work either. So I knew a job wasn’t going to work. And if he’s going to be nasty to me, I better school and just stop it now. And, you know, did I calculate and make a plan? Not at all, this little underdog just decided what I didn’t want and I jumped in. That’s it.

Pamela:
That’s incredible. I love that. I love that. And so pretty much it was all driven behind the mentality that like, I’m gonna keep going for my kids, basically.

Wendy:
Absolutely. Hundred percent.

Pamela:
I absolutely love that. I absolutely love that. Now, once you got into it, because you stepped into brand new terrain, like Google AdWords and stuff like that, you know? Because sometimes you go to these seminars, and you go to these things, and you’re like, Is this legit? You know, did you get that in any way? You know, when you walked in? Or did you get this feeling like, Okay, I got, you know, this is my fit.

Wendy:
Well, luckily, you actually did have to register online, and I was actually going to Google.com; that was helpful. I did check to make sure the credit card statement was actually to Google. And thankfully, it was, so no, I knew it was legit. I knew it was the real deal. The first one was actually in Atlanta. So now when I look back, I go holy Heck, that was ground floor, literally, ground floor and the beginning of being able to use first in the day, it was called Google AdWords. So there you are lucky, you’ll ever meet dumb blind luck. You know, a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while. And if you’re an underdog, and you just keep moving, you’ll find it.

Pamela:
Absolutely. So now, going from the ground level, which was learning the Google AdWords and things like that, you’ve built a multi-million dollar business, you’ve spoken all around the world, you’ve done some pretty incredible things. So how did you go from this startup entrepreneur who like love this stuff. The underdog entrepreneur, when you started from the ground up? How was that process? You know, obviously, I know it’s one client at a time. But like, how did you take that, we’ve got that one little seed that was planted in you from Google AdWords, and you turned it into this massive Empire. So I’d love to hear about sort of the business journey too.

Wendy:
Yeah, because actually, it wasn’t for clients for a long time. It was me and business partners and joint ventures. And so the great part about that was all about, we measured our success by sales, profitability, obviously, impact, that that product or service did something great, but we measured it on results. So I actually didn’t start working with clients until I got results myself first. The great part about that was, you know, first of all, not always operating from every ad turning on every campaign. That was my Fanny on the hook. Like, this wasn’t just me doing it for some nameless, faceless person, and it was their credit card bill. No, I’m accountable to my partners, like every split test, every time we hyper tracked all of it, you know, affected the bottom line. So that part was really great.

I’m going to share a couple of pieces outside the box. And these are things that will actually only come to reflect on the last couple years. I had someone asked me, Wendy, how did you even know you could do that? Well, I didn’t know I could do that. But I’ve also had people ask me, why didn’t you quit? Like you didn’t even have that many examples. Perry Marshall was, you know, a peer right alongside me. I got to watch, learn. Listen, we all learn from each other early on. But the reason I didn’t quit, because I certainly didn’t have most likely to succeed online, tattooed anywhere, like I’m not a technocrat. But what did really have a big effect on me and I hope this would help anyone listening. My brother, Pamela, was hit by a drunk driver when I was 16. And my mother started the first East Coast chapter of MADD, Mothers Against Drunk Drivers, and my brother was my hero. He taught me how to dribble left, all those fun things. I remember getting the phone call Maryland State police middle of the night. I go down to shock trauma and the short version of this story is I watched him fight for his life. But then I watched him learn to swallow, walk and talk again. And my whole chatter in my head about well, I didn’t graduate from Ivy League. I’m not good enough. What’s wrong with me? You know, all of that chatter. Like it’s irrelevant. You know if Chris can do that, if he can put his life back together, never complained. Never whined, never cried. I watched that. And I definitely made a decision. I don’t ever have anything to complain about. The worst that happens, Pamela, is I write more ads than anyone. The worst that happens is I spend more money, I’m just gonna say it. So I knew the worst that would happen is I would spend twice or three times as much money as anyone else in Google AdWords. But I knew I could Polish silver, mow lawns, or do whatever, to get more ad money to get better to sharpen my saw for the next campaign.

You know, I see so many people, so many entrepreneurs today, well, you know, I just don’t have the seed money, we’ll flip and go make the seed money. This is crazy. You know, we’re in the United States of America, even though we’re teetering on a little ledge right now. The truth is, there’s more opportunity all around us every day, in fact, COVID right now, there are more opportunities than ever today, because so many people have a pain or problem and need a solution.

So if you’re an entrepreneur or business owner, right now, it’s not a Pollyanna Oh, it’s better to… it really is true. In one of my businesses, right now, I really am having to turn away more people than ever, because I have people that were like, five years ago, you know, Wendy, remember that YouTube channel, I wanted to launch? Well, I really would like to do that. Why? Because they were on airplanes, 200 dates last year, you know, when they had seven employees, and they were making eight figures, but today, like crickets for 90 days, right? So people scrambling to reinvent themselves. But the truth is, we’re all touched by this recent huge shift… the soul, this country’s being ripped out by all the protests on race, appropriately, because it needs to change. But even in the midst of all that turmoil, we all need to figure out a way to help take care of each other’s families. And that means we have to help this country build ourselves back one business at a time; this country was built on small business. And so I think, you know, your podcast, the spirit, the mindset, the underdog, you know, to come back and be able to be relevant and even of greater service today. I don’t think there’s been a more important time. So that’s why I’m here. I love your show.

Pamela:
Thank you so much. And I love you too right back.

Tune in to the episode to hear the rest of my remarkable interview with Coach Wendy Stevens!