Forbes: Key Factors In Identifying Your Brand’s Most Effective Influencers

Forbes: Key Factors In Identifying Your Brand’s Most Effective Influencers

Influencer marketing has become a trendy marketing tactic that bridges together brands and consumers by engaging the most influential people in specific industries. It isn’t a new trend, though. In China, key opinion leaders are essential to most brands’ marketing strategies. And in the U.S., many leading brands either have or are beginning to create influencer marketing plans. It’s not a trend that’s going away, so marketers need to pay attention to it.

Finding the best influencers for your brand is not easy. In a lot of ways, it’s similar to picking a sports team. You can spend a huge amount of money on star players for your team, but that approach means you could miss someone who can consistently deliver but doesn’t have that same kind of swagger. Brands are oftentimes choosing those influencers with the most followers or bravado, but not those who make an impact or have the actual reach you need.

At SmarterChaos, we have managed influencer campaigns for various major brands. We choose influencers based on their real engagement versus fake paid followers, and on relevant content, their constant engagement with their audience, their pricing and their authenticity with brands. We also identify them based on demographics, personalities, platforms they are strong on and much more.

We go through a rigorous process to select people who are not only influential, but who are the most influential for the particular goals a brand has. We always want to make sure the influencer is a good match for our brand’s audience and that our brand will resonate with the influencer’s audience.

There are a lot of questions you can ask yourself to try to figure this out.

Does the influencer match your brand personality? Is their content a good fit for the voice and tone of your brand? Does their audience actively engage in their content (like, comment, share)? And do the demographics match up — not only the general demographics but the demographics of the people who are actually engaging with the posts?

Here’s an example: If you have a jewelry brand that wants to reach women over 30, an influencer in the general sense of the word could be a celebrity who has millions of female followers over the age of 30. But a better influencer could be someone who has only thousands of female followers in that age range, but they regularly buy jewelry and comment about the jewelry they buy.

There’s a difference between those two pools. One is broad and far-reaching, and the other is targeted but reaches the exact right audience. We look for the targeted influencers, the ones we know will convert.

Measuring a person’s influence is a tough, subjective task.

There are so many things that can be looked at, and they can be sliced a number of ways. How much should you care about their overall number of followers versus their history with brands and their content or tone? Is their personality the most important thing, or are their engagement numbers the top metric to consider?

As a brand, you have to choose what works best for you. Different industries, of course, call for different influencers. Some platforms are better than others. For instance, Instagram is often better for fashion because of the pictures, and we see that Facebook might be better for some “mom” brands.

In addition, we measure the success of a campaign on the reach of the influencer’s message, the engagement and the overall sales produced — the sales that we can track as originating from the influencer.

Back to the sports analogy. Imagine you’re drafting your best possible baseball team. Pulling in the flashy celebs will be pricey, and they might not live up to the hype. The opportunity with influencer marketing is to find the rookies or the under-recognized stars who get the crowds going and are consistent with their performance, game after game.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

1. Look at the influencer’s past. Do they write in a way that works for your brand? Are they brand-friendly? Do their posts seem to fit with your brand standards?

2. Consider your industry. Influencer marketing can work for just about any industry, but it has to be viewed through different lenses. The influencer strategies that work for a shoe company won’t be the same ones that work for an insurance company.

3. Measure everything. One of the biggest mistakes people make is starting a campaign without a clear measurement plan in place. Be sure that you’re tracking every single click, and that you’re matching those clicks to your return on investment (ROI) so you wind up with a solid picture of how effective your influencer marketing is.

Don’t get so caught up in the hype of influencer marketing that you forget to make sure all the boxes are checked. So slow down, make sure you’re choosing the right influencers and set up a clear measurement plan. Engage the influencers who are right for your brand. Empower them to represent the brand to their followers. And make the most of this lucrative new marketing channel.

Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?
The Power Of Review Sites For Brands

The Power Of Review Sites For Brands

You may be a marketer, but you’re also human – and that means you go out to eat, shop for clothes, purchase subscription boxes and get your hair cut. And as a consumer, you’ve probably read a few online reviews in your years on the internet.

We all do it, though some of us more make more recommendations than others. My friends often tell me to stop “selling them” when really I’m just recommending something passionately. According to Search Engine Land, a whopping 88% of consumers now trust product reviews as much as advice from friends and family, putting an anonymous online synopsis nearly on par with the age-old reliability of word-of-mouth marketing.

The Role Of The Review

In a lifestyle dominated by the internet, millennials see unique value in a well-thought-out purchase decision. Yes, some choices throw caution to the wind ($18 avocado toast, anyone?), but above all else, the younger generation appreciates a world where knowledge reigns. And when authoritative news sources fail to keep up, reviews are the next best thing, with 90% of customers reading online reviews and 88% of customers trusting what they read about those companies reviewed.

Don’t believe in the power of reviews? The numbers speak for themselves: According to BrightLocal, 92% of web users now read reviews and 40% make a decision based on as few as one to three opinions. Customers spend 31% more with a business that has excellent reviews,  and only 14% of consumers consider investing in a business with a one- or two-star average.

A New Way To Review

You’re likely plenty familiar with OpenTable, Angie’s List or TripAdvisor, but the vast universe of review sites has spread into countless other markets, from video games to America’s new favorite indulgence: subscription boxes. Their popularity is hard to ignore: According to Inc., site visits are up 3,000% between 2014 and 2016, with over 2,000 options to choose from in the U.S. alone.

Take, for example, Subscription Box Society, an affiliate of one of my companies. An authority in the subscription box review space, this company gives consumers access to a wealth of data at their fingertips, from FabFitFun to Dollar Shave Club. Peruse a StitchFix review and you’ll see what customers love (and hate) about the curated clothing concept, while a Five Four Club review narrates exactly what men can expect from their monthly boxes.

Unlike public pages like Yelp!, Subscription Box Society isn’t open to just anyone. Writers are pros in the industry, providing an unbiased look at the experience without allowing contemptuous feedback to muddy the waters. Instead, reviewers hone in on the facets that add true value. Sites such as Highlight Reviews add credibility to the brand with ratings and third-party trust seals as well as pricing information and quick feature bullets. This additional information is more believable by a third party and will be more accepted by users.

Forbes Agency Council is an invitation-only community for executives in successful public relations, media strategy, creative and advertising agencies. Do I qualify?

Making The Time To Share

Despite the importance of online reviews, attracting honest feedback organically is a little harder than it appears. Search Engine Land also reports that 70% of customers are willing to leave a review if asked and only approximately 50% do so when asked. And unfortunately for you, customers who had a bad experience are two to three times as likely to leave feedback as someone who received great service. Companies with strong reputations, however, often know how to work the system, leveraging marketing tools to urge users to share positive interactions.

Brands can entice users to leave reviews by interacting with them in comments sections, on social media or on blogs. You can provide the user a feedback system in your shopping cart or use good customer feedback software. One of the most important things that you can do as a brand is to engage positively with your audience, and never ever post something that would be considered combative, snarky, distasteful or anything that would offend or turn off a potential customer. Sometimes you have to turn the other cheek when it comes to reviews and fight any negativity with more positivity.

Content is king, even if you’re not the one writing. With the influx of review sites, both crowd-sourced and not, what the world has to say about you has never mattered more. At the end of the day, it’s up to you to make sure what others say sends the right message.

Don’t Lose Any Money In Affiliate Marketing With ITP 2.0 Coming

Don’t Lose Any Money In Affiliate Marketing With ITP 2.0 Coming

I KNOW that when you think about the UPCOMING ITP 2.0 (Intelligent Tracking Prevention 2.0) from Apple on their Safari and Mojave browsers, you can’t eat, you can’t sleep, and you are going crazy with total anxiety because you wonder how your affiliate commissions are going to be affected……OR NOT.  Or you are so worried as an Affiliate Manager at a huge Advertiser that your Affiliates won’t get credit for their sales, that you are doing stress eating.  OK, probably not.  In fact, you might be glazing over on this first paragraph thinking that this has something to do with submitting cover pages on all of your TPS reports.

As an Affiliate Marketer, I want to appeal to your inner Propeller Head (that’s a thing) and let you know that very simply, if you are not paying attention to the upcoming update called ITP 2.0 then you might be missing out on money.  That’s right.  You may be LOSING MONEY as an Affiliate, and, as the advertiser, you may be losing affiliates or your affiliate program might start to take a nose dive after this update.

OH NO!  So what can we do about this?  What does this even mean?  I’m glad you asked.  Your Chief of Chaos at SmarterChaos  has your back.

 

THE SKINNY ON ITP 2.0 IN AFFILIATE MARKETING

I’m going to put this into very non-technical terms, so any hard-core geeks please do not blast me:  ITP 2.0 is the latest idea for Apple to try to protect their users privacy when surfing the web using the Safari browser in light of the Facebook privacy scandals, and all of the hoopla online about the European Union’s GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation).  That’s right, there is hoopla on GDPR and everyone was freaking out to get compliant.  GDPR DID NOT AFFECT YOUR REVENUE AS MUCH AS ITP 2.0 MIGHT.  Apple is looking to update all browsers with ITP 2.0 sometime in late August or Early September.  We don’t have exact dates, but there has been speculation and we know it will coincide with the new release in Q4 of iOS 12 from Apple.

There was already an ITP 1.0 that narrowed the cookie window to 24 hours in September 2017, but Apple felt that this was not good enough, hence the latest update ITP 2.0.  So basically, this new update to users Safari browser DOES NOT ALLOW THIRD-PARTY COOKIES AT ALL OR THIRD PARTY REDIRECTS like we use to track affiliate programs. This is set as a default in the User’s browser, and likely will remain that way because most people don’t change their settings to be tracked by cookies on purpose.  Suddenly the term Intelligent Tracking Prevention becomes very funny and almost ironic given that it makes our intelligent tracking less intelligent.  But I digress.

So to recap, here are the changes from Apple in this latest update:

  1. Protecting Users Against Tracker Collusion:  Apple introduces a feature to “protect against Tracker collusion” that basically does away with redirects.  As we all know, affiliate marketing relies on tracking redirects or affiliate links, and you may or may not know that there are also tracking redirects on pixels on the conversion pages of merchants.  Apple is now tracking when a redirect is happening to your merchant’s page, and discouraging or blocking it.
  2. 24 Hour Cookie is Being Removed:  Third Party Cookies are no longer allowed, even with a 24 hour window.  The tracking cookie for a long time has been the cornerstone of storing all of the information to pay the affiliate, track the sale or lead, and basically has held up affiliate marketing over the years.

What about Chrome, FireFox or Netscape (Is that even a thing?).  Chrome has been doing some updates and you should look into all browsers, but really I’m only talking about ITP 2.0 with Apple Safari browsers on desktops, iPhones, and iPads.  When we looked at one of our largest campaigns at SmarterChaos, we realized quickly that 48% of the traffic going to one of our largest campaigns had users coming through Safari on their mobile devices or on their desktop.  That simply means, we would not have tracked affiliate commissions for the affiliates of these campaigns for this Advertiser if proactive attention was not given to this issue.

 

GOOD NEWS:  ADVERTISERS CAN USE BEST PRACTICES TO TRACK AFFILIATES

Yes, that’s right, amidst all of the chaos and confusion around this, you can easily fix your tracking and make it best practices “cookieless” tracking.  Each network has a different solution for this, but if you check with your Affiliate Network, or with your Affiliate Tracking Solution, you can put a fix in place.  This will cause your affiliates to feel more comfortable, thereby becoming more loyal, and thereby making gobs and gobs more money through your program making you gobs and gobs of money.  You will look like a rock star in your Affiliate Program, and a rock star to your Affiliates.  We all know how much you want to look like a Rock Star!  I know I do.

Cookieless tracking does not use cookies to track such as traditional pixel based tracking solutions, but instead it will use some JavaScript or some piece of code that you have to install onto your pages, and you will have to pass the click id (or something similar) from the affiliate URL through your site and into the conversion script that the network or tracking solution gives you.  I know I’m oversimplifying this, but it isn’t that much more difficult than I’m describing. If you have a developer or a tech staff with any basic skills, this should be easy and installed quickly.

If you want to see what the various networks are saying, I’ve referenced their blogs and solutions here:

The following platforms and networks I have not seen an update yet, but I hope to and if anyone sees an update please send it to me:

AvantLink
LinkConnector
Cake
HitPath
Refersion
MORE GOOD NEWS FOR AFFILIATES:

Ask the merchant to have all of your commissions tracked and be sure they are taking all the necessary measures.

  1. Take control of your merchant relationships or the affiliate marketing agencies that represent them, and start demanding that they comply with ITP 2.0 and Best Practices tracking in Affiliate Marketing.  Ask them if they are using cookieless tracking and have them explain back to you which network they use, how they’ve instituted the new cookieless tracking, and be assured that they are tracking all of your commissions.  Test your own links to track a sale using an updated Safari or Mojave browser on Desktop or Mobile. You work very hard to attract traffic, don’t lose it because your links aren’t tracking.

  2. Reach out to the Affiliate Network that you belong to and ask them which merchants are using this cookieless form of tracking and which are compliant with the new changes.  If your network doesn’t know, send them a link to our blog here and have them reach out to me.  I’ll update them.  Make sure you understand which merchants will track all of your commissions at a network, and make sure that the network takes this seriously.

     

KEY TAKE AWAYS FROM ITP 2.0

This new change from Apple and recent changes from Google Chrome are telling us as marketers that users do not want to be tracked using cookies, and they do not want there to be background redirects passing information that they don’t know about.  We have to adapt as an industry and follow those wishes so that our livelihood is still there for us as Advertisers and Affiliates in the Affiliate Eco-System.  The tracking capabilities are there and we just need to quickly bring our programs up to speed.  The best takeaway is that you can have even better tracking in your program, you can get advertisers to track even more of your commissions, and we can all co-exist with users if we just follow the rules being set by the browsers.

 

WHAT IS SMARTERCHAOS DOING AS A LEADING AFFILIATE MARKETING AGENCY?

SmarterChaos has audited ALL of our Advertiser Affiliate Marketing Programs, and we have begun installing the best practices code so that all affiliates in Smarter Chaos programs will be properly tracked and credited.  We have reached out to every Affiliate Network that we work with, and we have alerted them to our concern for our affiliates and our advertisers, and we have asked them for solutions.  In addition, we reached out to the PMA (The Performance Marketing Association)  and asked the President, Tricia Meyer, to address the topic in a position paper to alert affiliates and merchants about the potential seriousness of this issue.  We have had our “chicken little” moments about the sky falling, and then we calmed down, and Chived On.  You can be assured that Smarter Chaos is the leader in affiliate marketing and we are leading the way on this issue.

So Keep Calm, and Affiliate On.

Cheers,
Your Chief of Chaos
Matt Frary

Key Factors In Identifying Your Brand’s Most Effective Influencers

Key Factors In Identifying Your Brand’s Most Effective Influencers

– Forbes Agency Council by Matt Frary –

Influencer marketing has become a trendy marketing tactic that bridges together brands and consumers by engaging the most influential people in specific industries. It isn’t a new trend, though. In China, key opinion leaders are essential to most brands’ marketing strategies. And in the U.S., many leading brands either have or are beginning to create influencer marketing plans. It’s not a trend that’s going away, so marketers need to pay attention to it.

Finding the best influencers for your brand is not easy. In a lot of ways, it’s similar to picking a sports team. You can spend a huge amount of money on star players for your team, but that approach means you could miss someone who can consistently deliver but doesn’t have that same kind of swagger. Brand are oftentimes choosing influencers with the most followers or bravado, but not those who make an impact or have the actual reach you need.

At SmarterChaos, we have managed influencer campaigns for various major brands. We choose influencers based on their real engagement versus fake paid followers, and on relevant content, their constant engagement with their audience, their pricing and their authenticity with brands. We also identify them based on demographics, personalities, platforms they are strong on and much more.

We go through a rigorous process to select people who are not only influential, but who are the most influential for the particular goals a brand has. We always want to make sure the influencer is a good match for our brand’s audience and that our brand will resonate with the influencer’s audience.

There are a lot of questions you can ask yourself to try to figure this out. Does the influencer match your brand personality? Is their content a good fit for the voice and tone of your brand? Does their audience actively engage in their content (like, comment, share)? And do the demographics match up — not only the general demographics but the demographics of the people who are actually engaging with the posts?

Here’s an example: If you have a jewelry brand that wants to reach women over 30, an influencer in the general sense of the word could be a celebrity who has millions of female followers over the age of 30. But a better influencer could be someone who has only thousands of female followers in that age range, but they regularly buy jewelry and comment about the jewelry they buy.

There’s a difference between those two pools. One is broad and far-reaching, and the other is targeted but reaches the exact right audience. We look for targeted influencers, the ones we know will convert.

Measuring a person’s influence is a tough, subjective task. There are so many things that can be looked at, and they can be sliced a number of ways. How much should you care about their overall number of followers versus their history with brands and their content or tone? Is their personality the most important thing, or are their engagement numbers the metric to consider?

As a brand, you have to choose what works best for you. Different industries, of course, call for different influencers. Some platforms are better than others. For instance, Instagram is often better for fashion because of the pictures, and we see that Facebook might be better for some “mom” brands.

In addition, we measure the success of a campaign on the reach of the influencer’s message, the engagement and the overall sales produced — the sales that we can track as originating from the influencer.

Back to the sports analogy. Imagine you’re drafting your best possible baseball team. Pulling in the flashy celebs will be pricey, and they might not live up to the hype. The opportunity with influencer marketing is to find the rookies or the under-recognized stars who get the crowds going and are consistent with their performance, game after game.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

    1. Look at the influencer’s past. Do they write in a way that works for your brand? Are they brand-friendly? Do their posts seem to fit with your brand standards?
    2. Consider your industry. Influencer marketing can work for just about any industry, but it has to be viewed through different lenses. The influencer strategies that work for a shoe company won’t be the same ones that work for an insurance company.
    3. Measure everything. One of the biggest mistakes people make is starting a campaign without a clear measurement plan in place. Be sure that you’re tracking every single click, and that you’re matching those clicks to your return on investment (ROI) so you wind up with a solid picture of how effective your influencer marketing is.

Don’t get so caught up in the hype of influencer marketing that you forget to make sure all the boxes are checked. So slow down, make sure you’re choosing the right influencers and set up a clear measurement plan. Engage the influencers who are right for your brand. Empower them to represent the brand to their followers. And make the most of this lucrative new marketing channel.

New Rules of Entrepreneurship for Building Highly-Profitable Companies – Shoulders of Titans Ep. 017

with Matt Frary of SmarterChaos.com

“Remember how to be a student again, take knowledge and use it to achieve your goal.”

Shoulders Of Titans Podcast Interview #017 with Matt Frary

Matt Frary is CEO and Founder of SmarterChaos.com, an Internet Marketing and Sales Agency focused on large brands such as the Nationwide Pet Insurance, ValueMags.com, CBS Interactive, StraighterLine, JewelScent, Meredith Magazines, ShaveMOB, SkinIt and many more. Matt is a also a Founder of one of the former top 30 online Ad Networks in the US called ROIRocket.com, and a frequent speaker and influencer in the Affiliate Marketing and Online Marketing arena. Building highly profitable companies is something he has had much success with and loves to share his knowledge.

Matt has an MBA from #1 International Business School in the world, Thunderbird Graduate School, an education in marketing and business from the University of Colorado, with a strong focus in Russian and Brand Marketing and Finance.

As a Mentor at The Founder’s Institute in Denver, Co, Matt enjoys working with start-ups to realize their positive ROI quickly and is a passionate and serial entrepreneur.  His career also includes branding for the Smart Car at Mercedes Benz, Marketing at eBags.com, Lead Generation for the Auto Channel at MSN (DriveOff.com), Brand Agency Experience at The Integer Group in Denver, and becoming a dominant force in ethical lead and sales generation online. Recently Matt’s company SmarterChaos.com was listed 2 years in a row as one of Colorado’s Top 100 fastest growing companies, and was listed on the Inc. 5000 Fastest Growing Companies in America 2015.

To learn more about Matt, visit: www.SmarterChaos.com

Topics Discussed In This Interview:

  • How to spot the #1 sign a profitable business that is about to go out-of-business… A lesson on business all entrepreneurs must know, but most ignore
  • How to create a $40 million dollar business even with a tiny marketing budget
  • The step-by-step guide to becoming an internet marketing millionaire… an insider uncovers how to instantly and accurately spot huge growth opportunities in online affiliate markets
  • How to “stack backend offers” to easily double, triple or quadruple the lifetime value of any client or customer
  • The 3 powerful ways to instantly and strategically increase cash-flow in any business
  • How to create social capital and get big business favors from successful entrepreneurs… discover powerful strategies even if you’re just starting out in business
  • The easiest and fastest way be a CEO that is respected, loved and influential
  • What is known as the simple “Your-Mama Rule” that gives business owners consistent, long-term influence and income
  • How to 10 times the success for a business using simple, proven tools, cheat-sheets and training
  • How to “practice the game of business” and profit handsomely… all while spending more time for yourself and your family than ever before
  • The secret to investing in “Brand Champions” that promote your work and your brand around the clock… and only paying them when they make you money
  • And much, much more!

Full Transcript of Interview:
http://www.shouldersoftitans.com/interview-with-matt-frary/

Resources Mentioned:

www.Clickbank.com
www.SmarterChaos.com
www.ROIrocket.com
www.Pollen-8.com
www.SheIsMedia.com
The E-Myth” by Michael Gerber

Quotes:

“There are only so many Ubers, Googles, Facebooks in the world. The rest of have to grow through sales.”

“Reward your partners upfront, handsomely.”

“Just pick up the damn phone, call people and ask them if they trust you and ask them if they’ll trust you on this product.”

“Remember how to be a student again, take knowledge and use it to achieve your goal.”

“It’s not the business that we want to work with. It’s the people we want to work with.”

“Discipline doesn’t mean a lifestyle without fun or working around the clock. Discipline means being effective in the hours you do spend building that business.”

“Busy doesn’t mean effective.”

Matt Frary – Founder & CEO, SmarterChaos.com – Underdog.nyc

Matt Frary – Founder & CEO, SmarterChaos.com – Underdog.nyc

Matt Frary is founder and CEO of SmarterChaos.com, a digital performance marketing agency focused on driving customer acquisition for large brands such as eBags, ValueMags, Dollar Shave Club, JewelScent, Meredith Magazines, FabFitFun, and many more. SmarterChaos.com has been recognized two years in a row as one of Colorado’s top 100 fastest-growing companies, listed three years in a row on the Inc. 5000 Fastest-Growing Companies in America, and as a Forbes Agency Council member.

Matt has achieved great success in building highly-profitable companies and loves to share his knowledge. As a founder institute mentor in Denver, Colorado, Matt has worked with thousands of startups to drive profitable growth and build award-winning marketing campaigns. A national expert on brand management and customer acquisition, Matt is a frequent speaker and influencer in the affiliate marketing and digital marketing community. A passionate serial entrepreneur, Matt is also founder of SheIsMedia.com, founder of Pollen-8, and founder of Elite Media Partners.

Tell me about your early career.
Early on, I knew that I wanted to work in business and marketing, but I really didn’t have an idea what that meant. After graduating from the University of Colorado in business and marketing (and Russian language), I looked for a job in marketing or sales. I was lucky to come across a posting for eBags.com in 1999, which was just starting along with the great rush to build eCommerce sites. My first job was to build links for eBags through their affiliate program, and later to manage merchant relationships at an affiliate shopping mall for charity called Kickstart.com. I was told to call as many websites as possible and have them place ads on their site for luggage and bags, and through those links, they could earn commissions. This was called affiliate marketing and everyone was starting to do it, including Amazon and eBay. I was hooked, voraciously learning everything that I could early in my career about affiliate marketing, online tracking, ad placements, ad sales, media buying, and search.

After a year at eBags and Kickstart, I moved onto DriveOff.com, which was later CarPoint.com and MSN Autos. My job there was to build an affiliate program to drive auto dealer leads for more than 5,000 auto dealers across the U.S. Here I got chops in lead generation, and building out lead paths for auto programs, including partners such as Costco Auto Buying, as well as Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds.com. Microsoft quickly purchased DriveOff.com and I was looking for a new position.

From there, I went to a traditional advertising firm called The Integer Group, and we launched a digital division called Integer 2.0. Anything that was even remotely considered “digital” was passed along to me and my team, and we developed creative interactive strategies for large brands. I realized quickly that I wanted to have a larger part of the digital space and moved to another position with a software development firm, and then decided that if I was going to have a real shot at business, I’d have to take it to another level.

In 2003 and 2004, I went back to school to get my MBA in International Finance and Brand Management from Thunderbird School of Global Management. I focused on how to build brands profitably, and with a positive return on investment (ROI). I had to learn accounting, finance, statistics, organizational management, and cross-cultural communications – all of which became valuable as I built my own businesses. During my time there, I interned at Mercedes Benz, working on the launch of a massive brand called the “Smart Car”. Taking on the monumental task of working on this brand and researching the market, so that Mercedes could determine when to launch into the U.S. market, was eye opening and a quick schooling on how large corporations make decisions.

In the spring of 2005, I found myself starting from scratch with a newly-minted MBA, $100,000 in student debt, and no job. I reached out to a former friend that I had worked with online before Thunderbird, and he told me that he was making millions doing Internet marketing. I called him, and we agreed that I’d consult for him so that I could help build his business and earn some income myself. After a few months, he and his business partner asked me to build them an affiliate network, which I did. We built ROI Rocket from 2005 to 2009 into one of the top 25 affiliate networks in the U.S., grossing millions in revenue. The result, when I sold my 25% share in 2010, was over 1,600 advertisers with more than 60,000+ affiliates. We had built from scratch a profitable digital affiliate ad network.

How did the concept for SmarterChaos come about?
Even though I had been a part of building a profitable online digital company at ROI Rocket, I had also faced quite a bit of adversity through my partnership. Through some discovery and investigation, I had found that my partners were doing things in the business that were not in my best interest and in fact were very detrimental and inequitable. After intensive litigation, I prevailed and settled.

The concept for SmarterChaos came about when I was sitting on a beach in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico trying to recover from the dizzying, pending litigation and stress from my exit at ROI Rocket. I started to draw out the eco-system of the online advertising universe, and when I was finished, the players were all interconnected in a very chaotic, very unstructured way. I thought that if I could provide clarity and value to the advertiser, I could help develop more profitable online channels than an advertiser could do for themselves.

When I returned home, I went to work right away to find software and build a business that could easily track online channels and help me manage the chaos for large brands. I also had to jump on the phone and begin calling every affiliate, affiliate network, advertiser, and ad tech company out there to shop this idea and get them on board to build my business. I discussed the idea with a few friends and neighbors, and my two business partners, Doug Davis and Stu Butler, immediately jumped at the chance to help me build this business. We met in the Castle Rock, CO Library on February 3, 2010 and bought the domain and sketched out a business plan for SmarterChaos.com. The rest is history.

How was the first year in business?
Our first year in business was an absolute struggle. We had several battles to fight. One, I was still fighting litigation from my former company and business partners, and that was time-consuming, expensive, and energy-draining. In addition, I needed to quickly educate and socialize my business partners to the online marketing world, but luckily they were driven and smart and picked up very quickly. We relied on some of my past business relationships to build the business and drive revenue and sales. We also had to choose and invest in technology to run our business, but found a great partner in Impact Radius. Almost immediately, Impact Radius helped us wire up our business so that we could track, pay for, and serve great ads through our affiliates for our clients.

What was your marketing strategy?
Our marketing strategy has always been to drive referrals via past clients, relationships, and thought leadership. We participated in conferences, speaking engagements, and articles about the industry and best practices. We asked friends and family to refer us to anyone that they knew that needed digital strategy and execution. We were fortunate to be able to trade on my past reputation and to quickly grow that into current clients that would also recommend and refer us in the future. We aimed at landing large clients that were growing fast so that we could become a part of that growth. In the early days of SmarterChaos, we landed large accounts such as Meredith Magazines, Dollar Shave Club, BeachMint, Fab Fit Fun, and more.

How fast did the company grow during the first few years?
The company grew at a profitable enough rate to bring on employees, but not profitable enough for the owners to pay themselves for a while. We had to let go of our desire for security and a paycheck to drive our vision for growth of the company. Our name grew faster than our profit, but that’s often what happens in a start-up. You spend most of your money hiring the next person, investing in the next technology, and doing marketing. We would eventually, after three years, get listed on the Inc. 5000 as one of the fastest-growing companies in America, and then earn that two more times. We also made the top 100 Colorado companies to watch, two years in a row. The top line revenues were growing, and our company was stabilizing. We did all of this organically with no outside investment or investors.

How do you define success?
To me, success is defining a goal, and then reaching and surpassing that goal. If you stop and look around you, and you want what you have and you have fulfilled your short-term goals, you should feel successful. If you are working towards your long-term goals, and putting in the work to achieve those, you should feel successful. You can’t feel successful without knowing where you are going and measuring whether you got there.

What is the key to success?
There isn’t one key to success, but there are factors. The factors that play into a person’s success, and that make them more likely to be successful are:

1. Be willing to take risks – without risk, there is no opportunity for reward. Take measured, calculated, and large risks.

2. Be willing to work when others won’t – you may not have more money or resources, but you can outwork your competitor or the other person.

3. Build a team around you – you cannot do anything alone. Everything in life that makes you successful requires a team around you. Choose your team wisely, and be willing to cut from that team when necessary.

4. Always be learning – there is no such thing as an expert, but only those that continue to learn and evolve in a certain subject. Consume information about your work, industry, peers, competitors, and also for personal growth including your health, money, spirituality, hobbies, and family.

5. Don’t stop, keep moving – if you stop growing, learning, building, dreaming or executing, you are dead. You have to have a restless quality that never quite gets fulfilled and that allows you to yearn for growth and movement. Settling, quitting, or giving up is not an option to reach success.

What is the greatest lesson you’ve ever learned?
The greatest lesson that I’ve ever learned is that failure is an opportunity for growth. When we view failure as an opportunity for growth, we can find many growth opportunities in many different situations. Fail fast, grow often.

What are some quotes that you live by?
“Never give up”, “Always be closing”, “Want what you have”, “Make it happen”, “Without rain, there would be no rainbows”, and “Don’t let worrying about yesterday take away your today.”

What are some of your favorite books?
The Bible, Know Your Why: Finding and Fulfilling Your Calling in Life by Ken Costa, Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive by Harvey B. Mackay, Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving Inby Roger Fisher, The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich by Timothy Ferris, and The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It by Michael Gerber.

Tell me about one of the toughest days you’ve had as an entrepreneur.
It’s very difficult to choose one tough day, but I’d rather have tough days on my terms than “normal days” on someone else’s terms. One of the toughest days I’ve ever had as an entrepreneur is when I realized that my business partners were stealing from me by using company funds to enrich themselves, and that they were providing me with false documents to cover their tracks. I realized that all of the hard work that I had been doing, other people were profiting from without having to put in the work themselves. They had frozen my cash, told me that I wouldn’t be able to work there anymore, and pushed me out of a company that I had built. Essentially, I had to start all over and to fight them at the same time. Building a brand new company while draining current resources to get out of an old one, were my toughest moments.

The lesson learned is make sure that you know who you are in business with and build your team very carefully. You are only as good as the five closest people around you. Loyalty to the mission, to the company, and to me is a key trait and more important than anything else when I’m looking for talent and partners in business.

The other lesson learned, and this is THE KEY, is never, never, never give up. You might be on your knees begging for mercy from the tough days, but don’t forget to be on your knees rejoicing when you reach success. If you give up, you can’t experience the latter. What separates a successful entrepreneur from someone that you have never heard of is that the successful one didn’t give up.

When faced with adversity, what pushes you to keep moving forward?
When facing adversity, you must have faith. You need to have faith spiritually that your God or someone greater than yourself will pull you through, but you also need to have faith that the people you love and your family and friends will be there to support you. Strengthening my family and being able to give them everything they need drives me. My wife and kids push me to move forward, and at the end of the day, I realize that, “Without rain, there would be no rainbow.”

What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
I would advise entrepreneurs not to get wrapped up into trying to “act” like an entrepreneur. You either are, or you aren’t. Don’t get wowed by the stories of people making millions or billions, but instead by those that have faced adversity and overcome it to be successful. Be ready to adapt and overcome anything that is thrown at you in your business and personal life, because you will NEVER be able to stay on plan. Build plans, build goals, but realize you’ll never stay perfectly as planned.

 

This interview was conducted for research purposes by Jason Navallo for his upcoming book, Underdog.

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