There I was standing inside a window in downtown Manhattan. Only a few blocks away from Times Square. Staring out at the street. Staring out at a man who was staring back at me.
The man wore a trench coat and fedora hat. He held up a cardboard sign that said, “Are you Dave Farrow?”
He was dressed like a detective from an old black and white film noir movie…but I wasn’t in a movie, I was in something weirder. I was in the middle of a publicity stunt. Living in the window only three blocks from Time Square in the middle of the night ,staring at a man that seems to be based on the smoking man from the X-Files.
“That’s it,” I thought. “He is going to shoot me. My desire to do a marketing stunt is going to be the end of me.”
Let me start at the beginning. My name is Dave Farrow and I have had an interesting life.
Back in my 20’s I wanted to be an entrepreneur more than anything. Well, aside from my dreams of becoming an actor, producer, Guinness record holder, memory expert, inventor, media mogul, real-estate investor, and well… batman. The only one I didn’t accomplish was batman, but there is always tomorrow.
I wanted to run a business but I didn’t know anyone who ran a business. My family and their friends believed being a business owner was either impossible or only for rich people. The phrase “you need money to make money” rang in my mind over and over. So, this amazing thing called the internet was just starting at the time.
The problem was that I was not doing well in school. I had ADHD, dyslexia, and a number of health problems that caused frequent absences. But no one ever accomplished anything focusing on the problem. I was driven by ambition and firmly believed that within every disadvantage we are given in life lies the seed of an advantage.
I looked at my life and did not see a rosy future. I was determined to be a success but had to find the way. My first step was working on my brain. Looking back, I am glad I chose this path instead of all the options other well-meaning people would suggest.
My ADHD and dyslexia had put me in the resource room. I was one of the dumb kids and I hated it. I knew I was smarter than anyone thought, but I could not test well. The formal learning environment was a nightmare but when teaching myself, I was able to master skills. So, If I can teach myself, I thought, then I will teach myself how to test better! The tools offered to kids at that time were useless. It’s like academia had no basis in reality. Some expert would propose to help with ADHD or dyslexia and be more focused on proving their theory than helping me.
This is a known phenomenon that applies to marketing. The school system is geared to straight a students, NOT bad test takers that are equally as smart. The problem is, the ones who get straight A’s grow up and make the curriculum. They don’t think there is a problem so they never change it. This is the blind spot in the education system and why so many people with genius level IQs fail in academia and succeed in life. Often as entrepreneurs.
I realized no one would solve this problem for me and I acted. I went on a two-year quest to discover everything I could about memory and the brain. Eventually this brought me to my first love: Memory Training. The art of memory is an ancient art that has been used by mentalists and performers to impress audiences. After mastering this skill, I memorized entire rooms full of people’s names, learned over 1400 words of Cantonese in a weekend and of course aced my tests. Funny thing though, when you are failing every grade, and suddenly do perfect on memory tests they don’t think you were hit with the smart stick, they assume you are cheating.
I spent weeks in detention for doing well. I craved being judged on my merits as a business person instead of this corrupt system that needed no proof to judge me as a cheater.
If you fast forward to today I have been featured on major tv networks for my brain power. Most recently Fox TV’s superhuman where I won the episode’s 50,000 grand prize.
In order to follow the rest of the story you need to know a few things.
- Memory can be taught.
- The brain can change with training
- And not all systems of memory are equally effective.
After mastering memory for myself I tried teaching it and ran into a problem. Others seemed to think about memory differently. I would get about 50% of the audience learning and using my techniques and the rest would be lost. That’s when I started to change the memory systems and invent a new theory. I decided to customize memory techniques to the kind of thinker I was talking to. I didn’t want to make the same mistake they made when teaching me. I wanted to reach everyone with my system. I started to make my system now known as the Farrow Method. (I won’t go into details but I developed five new techniques that are used in neurology and educational settings all around the world.) I have had estimated sales over 10 million dollars worldwide and three infomercials. I have been featured at the top of Amazon’s best seller list in the category of memory for over 6 months. Find out more at www.worldgreatestmemory.com
The focus of this article is not about me or my past but about sales and traffic. So, you may be asking how did I go from being unknown with no money and no connections or support, to millions in sales and today I run a very successful PR and Marketing firm in buffalo NY, FarrowPR and I make an income more than many of my former classmates combined. How did I get here?
I know some of you reading this do not think PR – (public relations) can bring in real traffic but I know from experience that offline to online traffic can be accomplished and make you rich, if you just know how.
Step one for me was to get a credential. I wanted to make a big splash and get attention so I decided to go for a Guinness Record attempt. This was a PR stunt from the beginning. I wanted to prove that I had a different system of memory than any others out there and that mine was the best so I went after the toughest memory feat in the world at the time. Memorizing random decks of playing cards all shuffled together in a single sighting.
My record is for memorizing 59 decks of cards - 3,068 cards in total - after seeing them only once. With zero repetition. This feat is so difficult I found out later that others who practice memory doubted that I had done it properly because the best had tried and failed. This doubt only fueled my desire to make this a success.
After my Guinness record people looked at me differently. My family supported me, my friends were inspired. I didn’t get the ton of negativity I had received just a week earlier when I mentioned I was going to run a business. If you ever get a lot of negativity from others about your path, try something big. After the record, I was able to leverage that into a lot of press. I was on all the networks in Canada and called a whiz kid (I was 21). But I made no money. Lesson one for me was to realize it would not come easily. I needed a good product and branding and more press.
I made my products and my brand and even a website and went back to the media expecting to go right on the air again. Instead they didn’t even talk to me. I was old news already?
For the next few years I figured out the art of PR. Using seasonal hooks to get press coverage at different times of the year. Like back to school time and new year’s (have a better memory this year – interview me.) Later I became more sophisticated writing articles for match.com on how to remember your partner’s interests, and when I got on Steve Harvey talking about how to recall the honey do’s on a list from your love.
Over the course of 20 years I mastered PR and got paid to do it. I would do a radio show in the morning and watch the traffic spike throughout the week. I have now been on well over 2000 shows (I stopped counting in 2009). The most effective radio show was the Jeff & Jerr show in San Diego, where I drove traffic to my site and converted a total of $170,000+ in sales from just one interview. I learned some tricks on the way. Like how a loyal audience in your demographic is worth more than a big audience. I was on the largest hip hop station in NY city, sitting in the chair that (then Senator) Hillary Clinton sat in the day before! But this seemingly fantastic, hour-long show only made about $250 in sales! Yet a small-town radio show in Missouri with a loyal classic rock demographic made me well over $20,000 in sales. As you can imagine the older audience wants to improve their memory more.
I also learned to hit hot buttons. If you are not making money from your PR placements, it because you are not hitting the emotional buttons of the listener. I could talk about the science of memory and the fascinating tools to improve it but what worked was talking about being a kid with no prospects and how this system changed my life, or talking about a customer who was worried about losing their memory and after they took this system they remembered everyone at work and it lead to a promotion.
All true and all entertaining. When you go on a radio, tv, print, blog, YouTube, podcast, webinar etc. you don’t need to cut a deal between giving content and making sales. Simply tell the story the audience wants to hear. What moves their heart.
This is not manipulation, it is serving the audience.
The final lesson I want to share is to get paid twice. Always be looking for a way to leverage your recent success into more. I leveraged my Guinness record into PR, I leveraged PR into sales, I then leveraged those sales history into being funded by a Venture-backed infomercial that made my product go worldwide.
One day SONY contacted me to do a publicity stunt. As a speed reader, for 30 days I would live in a storefront window in downtown Manhattan and read on the Sony reader, (their answer to the Kindle at the time.) The experience was wonderful and of course paid well, but it was right in the middle of the 2008 election that was followed by the housing crash.
The news of the housing crash was hitting right when that man in the trench coat and fedora came to my window with a sign.
“Are you Dave Farrow?”
I thought, “This is it. I’m going to die. My quest for fame is going to end tragically.”
Ok, I’m being a bit mellow-dramatic. Despite his intimidating appearance, the trench-coated man was actually an innocent bookworm who liked the novel I was reading. He turned over the sign and it said “Author Andrew Vachss sends his regards.” (Andrew Vachss is a must read by the way!)
A few weeks later I was on Live with Regis and Kelly and started my process of immigrating into America. I was able to thrive in the down economy due to the large amount of PR I got on a regular basis. PR is the ultimate return on your investment today because it builds your brand at the same time and giving you a credential. For me, it allowed me to immigrate. Those 2000 interviews I did were counted by a legal team and used to apply for an extraordinary visa. The same visa that Albert Einstein applied for, I found out later.
A lot of people say they are amazing but few have paperwork to back it up.
Today I am still going strong. I run memory tournaments across America that are the official memory sports in America today. I operate FarrowPR with a team that is so talented and passionate it makes me want to work harder than ever before. I spend my time talking to brands about their messaging now, and helping other companies and authors get bookings in the media that pay off. The years I spent selling my own product gives me the experience to help others. I even used my brain to create a tech startup making dancing mannequins. Imagine where I got the idea that something moving in a window could make a good marketing tool? Yet another way to leverage past success. I am so happy with the life I live today and I owe it all to aiming high and creating my own path.
I wonder what path you will create for yourself?
CEO, Dave Farrow is the two-time Guinness Record holder for greatest memory. He has been a featured guest expert on over 2000 media interviews including, The Today Show, Live with Regis and Kelly, Steve Harvey, Discovery Channel and many others. As a result of this publicity, he has made millions in product sales for his memory program, which is backed by a double-blind neuroscience study at McGill University. Dave is the executive editor of the online magazine, Brain Hackers which features the "Brains Behind It" podcast series. His memory record still stands today: He recalled the exact order of 59 decks of shuffled playing cards in a single sighting.