10 Facts About Marketing Consultant: Michel Fortin

After my article on “Lesson Learned, Lesson Earned,” in which I discussed my history with the Internet marketing industry, some people asked me several questions about my background outside of my career as a marketing consultant. Not the background stuff you'll find on my “About” or “Now” pages. But the stuff people may not know.

I believe I'm an open book. Or I think I am. But I also realized that, even though I've been doing this for 30 years, I get new followers and subscribers all the time who don't know a thing about me.

Coincidentally, too, this morning I received the latest newsletter issue from marketer Louis Grenier that inspired me. It listed 10 facts about him.

Louis is the host of Everyone Hates Marketers podcast, a show which I've listened to for a while. His style is refreshing and authentic, which some might find a tad abrasive. His show teaches real-world, no-nonsense marketing that's not sleazy, loud, or aggressive, or that resorts to using hacks or “secrets.”

That's my kind of marketing.

So I followed his example. Here are 10 facts about the person behind The More Traffic Memo, listed in no particular order.

1. I'm a husband to Barbara, a Canadian-Portuguese immigrant who works as a nurse in the labor and delivery unit at The Ottawa Hospital. Right now, COVID is making her job exceptionally tough and stressful. She inspires me so much.

Michel Fortin and Barbara De Moura wedding, May 20, 2017.
Barbara and Michel, May 20, 2017.

2. I was born and raised in the small Canadian town of Aylmer, Québec. It's now a suburb of Gatineau, which is a city adjacent to our nation's capital of Ottawa. Until the 90s, Aylmer was mostly bilingual (French and English), which is why I speak both fluently.

Recently, I learned Portuguese after meeting my wife so I could recite my vows in her language. (Yes, sounds almost like a scene from Love, Actually.)

3. As a young child in the late 70s, I surfed bulletin boards using an agonizingly slow 300-baud dialup modem. I learned to code and played Scepter of Goth, the first-ever multiplayer online role-playing game (or MMORPG). This is where I fell in love with technology and what would later become the Internet.

4. My first job was working at McDonald's as a teen in the early 80s. My wage was a paltry $2.54/hour (less than two US dollars). But my first “adult” job was selling insurance — the job in which I failed miserably, declared bankruptcy, and then succeeded after I discovered the power of copywriting.

5. I left the insurance business, moved to Ottawa, and became a marketing consultant at a nearby hair restoration clinic. I worked on commission selling hair replacement systems. Not satisfied with the number of leads coming in, I took over the clinic's marketing — including writing their ads, direct mail pieces, and TV commercials, and eventually, their first-ever website, too.

The clinic grew and expanded to include hair transplant surgery. They later opened multiple clinics across Canada and the USA, where I handled the clinic's marketing, copywriting, advertising, and training of their new staff.

6. This is where my marketing career took off. By taking care of my employer's other clinics and their marketing, my sales suffered and, as a result, my income plummeted. So I left and hung my shingle as an independent marketing consultant who specialized in cosmetic surgery.

I launched my first website in 1995. Since I worked mostly with doctors, clinics, and surgeons, I later incorporated as The Success Doctor, Inc., since my goal was to help doctors become successful.

7. How I entered the Internet marketing industry was a bit of a fluke. I wrote a booklet in the early 90s called The 10 Commandments of Power Positioning. By the mid-90s, I split the book into standalone articles, which I offered to a variety of online magazines that wanted to publish them.

The goal was to capture the attention of other doctors, particularly those who were looking to get on this thing called the Internet. But it also captured the attention of a software company that was also publishing its own magazine called The Internet Marketing Chronicles. They hired me as their editor.

8. After writing near-daily editorials for a few years, The Internet Marketing Center owned by the late Corey Rudl acquired the magazine. Luckily, Corey kept me on board as their editor. We had over 120,000 subscribers.

Eventually, Corey flew me to Vancouver to his office where I wrote copy for him, including his sales presentations and “pitch slides” he used when he spoke at Internet marketing seminars. I also ghostwrote his autobiography, “How to Create a Fortune on The Internet in Just Four Simple Steps.”

How to Create a Fortune On The Internet in Four Simple Steps - The Autobiography of Corey Rudl
“How to Create a Fortune on The Internet in Just Four Simple Steps” by Corey Rudl

9. This led to a stream of work with other Internet marketers, and speaking gigs at marketing and business seminars around the globe. I spoke on stages in front of a few hundred people in New Zealand to about 10,000 at Wembley's Convention Centre in the UK — and everything in between.

During this time, I shared the stage with other well-known marketers and copywriters, including Dan Kennedy, Jay Abraham, Yanik Silver, Gary Halbert, Mark Joyner, Russell Brunson, Ryan Deiss, Mark Victor Hansen, Jay Conrad Levinson, Brendon Burchard, and countless others.

10. Recently, David Garfinkel interviewed me on his Copywriters Podcast, and he asked me this question: “What topic makes your heart beat a tad faster these days?” My answer was SEO. The reason is, as I told him, SEO has grown to a point where it's no different from knowing how to write excellent copy.

Simply know your market and what they want, and just give it to them. That includes content and copy. What kinds of questions are they asking that you can answer? What types of problems do they have that you can solve? Knowing this will improve both your SEO and your conversation rates.

Now it's your turn. What do you do? Comment below.


My Name is Michael, I Got a Nickel…

OK, this post has been a long time coming.

For over a decade, people keep asking me, “So, what is it: Michel? Michael? Mike? Or what?” (I prefer “Master Overlord,” but I digress. Oh, and here's a little-known fact: a nickname high school kids gave me was “Spike.”)

My name is “Michel,” formally pronounced “Mee-shell.” Like Michelle Obama, for example. My late wife used to call me “Mish.” But when I introduce myself to English audiences or clients, particularly American ones, I don't pronounce it that way for several reasons.

My name is French-Canadian. I was born in Gatineau, Quebec. For those of you not familiar, Quebec is primarily a French-speaking Canadian province.

Anglophone Recognition of My Name

Canada is a bilingual country, so most anglophone Canadians will instantly know that “Michel” can be male or female. But after someone introduced me to my very first American client decades ago, he responded in a confused and disconcerting manner:

“What? But, you're not a girl!”

This confused me at first, since the female version of the name requires an “e” at the end. Similar to Italian, Spanish, or any other Latin-based language, words that end with “a” are female, and “o” (or the lack of an “e” in French) are male. Like “Gino” versus “Gina,” for example.

“Michelle” or “Michèle” is the female name, like Michelle Obama. But the “e” at the end is silent. In writing, if there's no “e” at the end, it's easy to recognize that it's a male's name. But when introducing myself in person with “Mee-shell,” it would confuse a lot of Americans.

This happened several times. More times than I cared to count. So at a certain point, I felt compelled to do something about it since I was tired of explaining myself. So today, I pronounce it “Michael,” which is my nickname, anyway.

“I Got a Nickel Shiny and New…”

As a child, my French-speaking parents nicknamed me “Michael.” I even remember when they bought me my first 45-speed vinyl record, which was “Playground In My Mind” by Clint Holmes. (The chorus goes, “My name is Michael, I got a nickel…”)

I also remember when I took English immersion in junior high school. (Boy, do I remember!) When the teacher asked us to introduce ourselves on the first day of school, I told my teacher, Sister Helen (yes, it was a catholic school and some of our teachers were nuns), that my name was “Michael.”

The principal was in class that day. (Coincidentally, his name was Michel, too.) And I remember Sister Helen looking at me, with a stern frown that Catholic nuns are notorious for, saying in her disapproving voice:

“Les noms propres ne sont pas traduisibles!” (“First names are not translatable!”)

Now, maybe she said that because the principal was around, and he was a proud francophone. Francophone Quebeckers are very protective of their language and culture. (They even instituted laws to do so.) Heck, if we spoke English in the hallways, we could get reprimanded. Even suspended.

(Long story made short, in the late 70s and 80s, there was a movement to secede from Canada, culminating in not one but two votes on Quebec independence. The government-funded school system definitely shared the anti-Canadian, anti-English sentiment.)

“Michael” is My Preferred Nickname

Nevertheless, I wasn't trying to translate my name or break any rules (it was an English immersion class after all). I was using the nickname my parents used so often — even when they didn't speak English.

I thought I was being smart by using it in class. (Luckily, Sister Helen was a lot gentler with me as time went on. I even became her teacher's pet.)

For a lot of French Canadians it seems, calling a Canadian francophone person by the English version of their name often ends up as a nickname. It's like a term of endearment, particularly when used by your closest friends and family.

For example, I had a friend named Jean and we called him “John”. Another, Caroline (pronounced “Caro-leen” in French), we called her “Caro-line” (the English way, which rhymes with “fine”). This was a very common practice.

(As a child, when my parents called me by my French name — that is, my proper name — it was an alarm bell because I knew I was in trouble for something! When I heard “Michel Guy Fortin!” I knew I was in trouble.)

So, I'm used to “Michael” and I prefer it. After all, it's my nickname. It's the name I use in business and I introduce myself with. Sure, it's spelled “Michel.” But I pronounce it, and prefer when people pronounce it, as “Michael.”

“Who is Like God” or Calling on God

So if you ever wondered, now you know. I hope this solves it once and for all.

By the way, Michael comes from Hebrew. “Mika-El” (where “Mika” is Hebrew/Aramaic for “Who is like” and “El” is God). It's a theophoric name, meaning that the bearer of the name is invoking the name's divine protection — like archangel Michael, who was the “protector and leader of the army of God.”

Nevertheless, here's a final thought. Most French Canadians are bilingual. In fact, many francophone Canadians incorporate English words in their day-to-day vocabulary. We call them “anglicisms.” (I know we did it alot as kids in both grade and high schools.)

Here's a perfect example. It's also one of my favorite vloggers (i.e., video bloggers) on the Internet. This guy is from Montreal and he produces videos with claymation and barbie-doll characters, with his own face superimposed. It's the funniest stuff I've ever seen!

If you're American or an anglophone Canadian, you'll hopefully grasp at least 50% of what this next video says. (Just the video itself is a riot!) And if you're Canadian or of French descent, let me warn you: you're going to roll on the floor laughing your posterior off. I know I did.

Here is an English version, however a lot of the jokes get lost in translation. But it's still quite funny.