Marketers love a good story. Stories are memorable. Stories invoke powerful emotions that drive action.

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A familiar story arc features "the hero's journey," in which the main character overcomes challenges and obstacles to achieve success. That may be why I was inspired to learn (and share) the story of Dan Lok.

Dan's a self-made millionaire, entrepreneur, and best-selling author of The Art of War for the New Millennium and Influence!: 47 Forbidden Psychological Tactics You Can Use To Motivate, Influence and Persuade Your Prospect.

An immigrant who speaks English as a second language, Dan started his first business at an early age and never looked back. Not all his ventures have succeeded (ask him about his vending machine business), but he learned the power of marketing early on and mastered the art of persuasion. His portfolio of companies now generates more than $10 million in sales each year. One of his companies, Charm Junction Inc., was named Online Retailer of The Year by Canada Post in 2012.

Dan's a sought-after speaker on the topics of entrepreneurship and leadership, as well as branding and online marketing.

I invited Dan to Marketing Smarts to talk about how he first discovered the power of marketing, how he's developed and evolved his personal brand, and the value in finding the right niche (or niches, in his case).

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

Writing powerful copy can teach fledgling marketers a valuable lesson about ROI (05:15): "I remember the first time I wrote copy for [my mentor Alan Jecks]. We used to do a ton of direct mail. We would send out a direct mail piece to people and people would respond by going to the website or sending back a register for the event. The first time I saw those replies, those checks in the mail...that just changed my life....

"Now I understood the power of marketing. That you could put some words on a piece of paper and you can send it out and people would reply and would buy and send you money. I was just amazed as a young guy in my early twenties. I never looked back. That's basically how I got into marketing." 

Before undertaking a new venture, know your criteria (08:20): "The ventures I get involved with nowadays—there are a few criteria I look for. Number one: I like high profit margin businesses. One of the things I've learned over the years [is that] with a low profit margin business, there's no room for errors. When the margin's so tight, when you make a mistake or your competitor wants to compete with you on price or your supplier wants to jack up the price, it makes the company very difficult to grow.... There's not enough money to invest in marketing to get more customers....

"I like trends that are growing. I don't want to get involved with something...we can only do for a couple of years. I prefer to get involved with something that I know is an uptrend and it's going to grow for a while. That's the second thing I look for.

"Number three: I like niches, because I prefer to get involved with something where we can become the number 1 or number 2 in that category. Can we be the go-to company for that thing? Because, think in terms of any brands out there... Most consumers in any category, products or services, we can only think of one or two [brands] most of the time, and if we go to that third or fourth one, it becomes very challenging, So the top of mind awareness is why I want to go into a niche. If I compete in this broad space, it's very difficult to generate that top of mind awareness.... Great companies...don't compete, they dominate."

If you want to succeed in marketing, you have to evolve (18:00): "As an entrepreneur and as a marketer, we have to reinvent ourselves every few years. What got you here won't get you there. I know that [the skill you have] is what you rely on, but if you want to go to the next level, sometimes you've got to let go of that and say, 'What are the new skills I need to develop to get to that next level?' That's what I've done throughout my career....

"We all have a personal brand, one way or the other. Because if I was to talk to five of your closest friends and ask, 'What's Kerry like,' they would say certain things.... Whatever they say, that's your personal brand, so we all have personal brands. Some people have a great personal brand, they're reliable, they have integrity, they're trustworthy, they show up on time, they always deliver. And some people: 'Oh no, no that guy, he's a flake...' or whatever. We all have a personal brand.

"I'm very big on personal branding, because here's what I've learned.... When I was a copywriter I had a personal brand as 'the copywriting whiz kid' because I was so young, and I turned that disadvantage into an advantage.... Then it evolved into a website conversion expert and, over the will notice you might go from niche to broad and from broad to niche—perfectly normal.,.. So I transitioned from copywriting [and] marketing into marketing and public speaking and now to just a personal brand, Dan Lok.,.. It evolves.

"Ask yourself what do you want to be known for (attributes, characteristics) and what do you want to be known as. As in: you are the leading expert in whatever field. If you can think in terms of what you want to be known for, what you want to be known as, that's a good start."

To learn more, visit and follow Dan on Twitter @DanTheManLok.

Dan and I talked about so much more, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

This episode brought to you by GoToWebinar:

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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