Jason, an all round nice guy started out with a $32 Bizzop and went on to grow and build several companies worth in the region of 100's Millions of dollars. A huge success in the online world. An Investor, Entrepreneur & Advisor in businesses involving online marketing. Here's his story.
Q. Jason, can you give us a brief run-through your past 10-15 year history in this space?
Started back in 2003 buying a bizopp, that said I could make money on the internet, for $32 that came with some PERL scripts and access to a forum. I never met a real human in this space for over 3 years.
There wasn't really any trade shows or anything like there is today. Then I spent 4.5 years as a full-time affiliate doing mostly blackhat SEO which taught me some great skills on how to problem-solve.
At one point I had a lot more ideas than I could execute, so I went and found project partners where we'd do a 50/50 split, I'd provide the ideas and resources and they would code up and manage the projects.
In 2008 I had 7 of these project partners and we worked with 3 affiliate networks so it became quite complicated to manage. That's when I bought Ads4Dough which was a small network for $20,000 just so that I could easily manage the project partners.
With A4D we stumbled into Nutra and were generating 10,000 - 30,000 trials a day. This later wound up with us getting sued by the FTC which made me decide to totally exit that space, that was back in 2012.
I remember doing some soul searching and thought about selling A4D at that time. I realised I'd spent all this time building something of relatively no value and vowed never to do that again.
So we decided to focus on all White hat offers that any VC (venture capital) or PE (private equity) would feel comfortable buying if we ever wanted to sell the company.
A4D focuses on sustainable offers that you don't have to cloak traffic sources to be successful.
In 2016 with A4D running well, strong leadership and a great team I decided to start my own product/eCommerce company.
For that, we focus on building brands with product lines. The short term goal is to set up products online and get them profitable. Then to grow the product lines and eventually get them into retail.
90% of all consumer product sales still happen through retail channels so we're ultimately trying to get our products there, in addition to TV, Radio and direct mail.
Q. How did A4D come to life?
First I never wanted to be in the network business. I was a full-time affiliate for 4.5 years doing mostly Blackhat SEO, which means understanding the search engine ranking algorithms then reverse-engineering them.
Once I'd find a loophole I'd write some code to automate accessing that loophole at scale. As an example of this, you could point Digg links at blogger blogs and rank for any keyword in 6 hours.
So I'd automate ways to make 40,000 of these a day. By doing this I'd rank for every major keyword in google that I wanted to. They'd last 1-2 days max before Google could clean them out.
But I'd already made new ones by that point. Figuring out lots of ways to capitalise on algorithmic loopholes there were more opportunities than I could execute myself.
So I had a lot of friends in the space and I'd partner up with these people. We'd do a 50/50 split where I'd provide the ideas and the resources to make the idea work.
Then they'd be doing the coding and manage the systems to create an all-around win/win. With 7 of these project partners and working with 3 affiliates networks that gave me 21 affiliate accounts, I needed to manage.
This was too much so I decided to buy a small network just to manage these relationships.
At this same time, I was always very involved in forums and was a moderator of the largest affiliate forum of the time Wickedfire.com.
My goal was always to try and help as many people be successful as possible so I spent a lot of time answering questions and giving feedback to people on Wickedfire.
Because of this when people found out I had a network platform they signed up in mass. Within 30 days we had around 2,000 media buying affiliates sign up to the platform.
Q. How different is Ecom now to say 10 years ago?
As consumers get more and more comfortable making purchases online it allows more "regular" products to be able to be sold through the online channel.
Back 10 years ago many people were still very scared to put their credit card into a computer, you can see this changing quickly and especially on a generational basis.
There will be a time in the future where it will get even easier to buy online via not having to type in all your card info.
I see a time where all purchases will be one click purchases by holding the card details at the browser level or Facebook or whatever.
This should double conversion rates if not more and make things even easier to make profitable.
Q. What's your main focus now?
As far as verticals at A4D we focus on lead gen, white hat eCommerce products and financial investment advisory newsletters.
In addition to that, we're looking for smaller affiliate companies that we can buy, integrate into our operational systems and grow with the A4D brand.
We think there are great opportunities in the European, Asian and South American markets that we're excited to capitalise on.
I think as the space gets more and more difficult there will always be opportunities for small guys to find ways to make some money.
But the divide between the bigger companies and the individual affiliates will grow.
Q. Jason, You're a veteran in performance marketing. Where do you see performance marketing going from here and how different is it from when you started A4D?
Performance marketing continues to become more prevalent and appreciated by the mainstream investment world. The opportunity will continue to grow and the space will continue to grow.
When I started in the affiliate space there were hardly any rules. You could run anything anywhere at large scale.
I was around for the beginning of Google Display Network, Facebook Flyers (before FB ads) and many other things... all started at 1 cent clicks. The space continues to grow but the wild west days are numbered.
I think AI (artificial intelligence) will be more and more prevalent with finding fraud, cloakers, etc. In addition to that more budgets are moving online from TV every year.
This will ultimately drive up the CPM's for all channels. Again there will always be opportunities. But the super low hanging fruit will get less and less.
I also break "media buying" into 2 things "creative" and "campaign management". As AI and ML (machine learning) get better and better the "campaign management" portion of media buying will go away.
This is why I encourage everyone to focus on building those creative muscles like copywriting, conversion rate optimisation and design. I think we're really far off from a machine to be able to to do these things well and they will ultimately trump all campaign management strategies.