How I Became A Millionaire At

This is the hypothetical history of

Nicksbuttons aren’t the promotional buttons you stick on your lapel. These are the buttons that prevent your pants from falling to your ankles and your shirts from flapping in the breeze.

Our mission at has always been to become the 800-pound orangutan of the direct-to-consumer button world. But buttons aren’t as consumable as we would like, so in our first year online sales and growth were a little flat. How can you turn something dull and long lasting like a button into a must-have consumable?

Tough question — until we introduced Clip-a-Button.

Without Clip-a-Button, could never have become the multi-billion dollar company it is today. So here’s how we began to direct market buttons by the million.

First, we asked everyone to cut the buttons off their clothes.

Next, we told them to replace these sown-on things with Clip-a-Buttons. They just clip on where the old button was. And they can be clipped off again in a moment.

Pretty cool, eh?

What we did overnight was transform a fastening device into a fashion accessory. We sold snowflake and holly berry Clip-a-Buttons at Christmas. We sold heart shaped buttons for Valentine’s Day. We sold alphabet buttons, monogrammed buttons and flashing buttons. Our first million-dollar week came when we co-marketed with Victoria’s Secret and the M&M candy people to introduce our line of edible lingerie buttons.

Meanwhile, we were building our opt-in email database and targeting our outbound promotions with predictive modeling based on prior purchases and declared areas of interest.

Our next big leap forward was when we created the “this button really is a button” affiliate program. Our buttons started cropping up on web sites everywhere. The key to our affiliate success was what we dubbed “contextual marketing.” For instance, our affiliate button on the various hobby gardening sites linked directly to a page that featured our flower and petal Clip-a-Button selection.

The buttons on music-related sites linked to our shiny CD and disco globe Clip-a-Buttons. As for the computer sites, there was never any lack of geeks who wanted to button up with mouse and microchip Clip-a-Buttons. That’s how I made my first million.

The next 10 million came relatively easily. How did I do it? In a word: Hollywood. Star Wars Clip-a-Buttons. The Titanic necklace Clip-a-Button. And after that, things went from crazy to craziest. Especially after we did the deal with Disney and got that portal page button on

The rest, as they say, is history.

So here, free of charge and powered by self-delusion, are the secrets of my success.

  1. Never be afraid to look outside of the web for powerful partnerships.

  2. Leverage the success and reach of other companies and people.
  3. Build permission, build a database, and never let that permission go stale. Permission granted today is no longer permission six months later if you haven’t nurtured and reaffirmed it.
  4. Make sure that everything you do offline, right down to the wrapping paper, promotes your site and its URL.
  5. Don’t think that the Internet is the only place with networks. When that Howard Stern fellow wore our limited edition “Bite Me” buttons on TV (one letter per button, from top to bottom of his shirt) — we got a lot of word of mouth happening.
  6. If you have an affiliate program, think context.
  7. While the first strike is the sexiest — never forget that most of your profits come from keeping customers and repeat sales– service the heck out of every buyer — every time. Build your model, your plan, and your site with repeat sales in mind.

And that’s it for

Finally, to wrap up the saga, here’s an update on a point I made in the first article. Here’s what I said: “Recently I purchased some software online. It was my first purchase from that site. I received an email confirming my order and nothing more.”

Well, I heard back from them today for the first time, over two months after I made the purchase. Their email was unsolicited — no opt-in or permission granted. They offered me money off on a variety of utility software programs for my PC. But I don’t have a PC. I have a Mac. And they knew this from my purchase.

Pretty sloppy.

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