Evan Weber (Mastering Digital Marketing)
In this episode Evan Weber and I talk about:
- How the digital marketing landscape has changed over the years?
- How affordable advertising opportunities have driven entrepreneurial success.
- What the Shopify platform has done for ecommerce sites?
- Can you derive high value traffic from TikTok?
- Will there be a ‘privacy backlash’ from the intrusion of our privacy by Facebook or Google?
- Did Google’s / Facebook’s high prices reduce entrepreneurship during the last few years?
- Why are subscription revenue businesses so hot right now?
- and much more!
Evan Weber has been breathing digital marketing for over 20 years. With his own digital marketing agency he has been working with 300+ companies to improve their marketing efforts. Evan has also been a speaker at various digital marketing industry events.
You can reach Evan via LinkedIn.
Welcome to the Judgment Call Podcasts, a podcast where I bring together some of the most curious minds on the planet, risk takers, travelers, adventurers, investors, entrepreneurs or simply mindbogglers. To find all the episodes of this show, please go to iTunes, Spotify, YouTube or go to JudgmentCallPodcast.com for more resources, including how to become a guest, how to advertise, and to see all the lectures, podcasts and books I would like to, would like you to listen to or read, please also go to our website at JudgmentCallPodcast.com If you like this show, please consider leaving a review on iTunes or Like us and subscribe to us on YouTube that will make it easier for other users like you to find us later on. This episode of the Judgment Call Podcast is sponsored by Mighty Travels Premium. Full disclosure, this is also my business. What we do at Mighty Travels Premium is to find the best travel deals for you as they happen. We do that in economy, premium economy, business and first class and we screen 450,000 new airfare deals every day just for you and present the best based on your preferences. Thousands of subscribers have saved up to 95% of the airfare deals. In case you didn’t know, Americans and Europeans can already travel to more than 80 different countries again, South America, in Africa and in Eastern Europe. To try out Mighty Travels Premium for free, go to MightyTravels.com. That’s too much for you to type, just type in mtp4u.com, mtp4u.com to start your 30 day free trial. We’re here today with Evan Weber and Evan has been breathing digital marketing for more than 20 years and Evan is a cool dude and he now has his own digital marketing agency and he’s helped over 300 companies to fix their social marketing to improve their RRIs. Also, Evan has been a speaker at various industry events and I’m very happy to have him on the podcast today. How are you, Evan? Great, doing well. Thanks for having me. Hey, absolutely. Thanks for doing this. You’re definitely the expert in digital marketing and it’s a big topic of interest to me because we’ve had this theme earlier in another episode where we realize with all this scale that you have for business now, attention is really where the scarcity lies and attention, it really decides about the success or not the success of your business. So I’m really, really curious to explore this topic a little deeper. As we go into this, help us a little bit better to understand how you saw the landscape of digital marketing change over the years. What’s your own personal development story with this? What did you see back in the 90s, how it started and where we are right now? Yeah, thanks for having a great question. Very broad topic there. But in general, back in the 90s, it was really just very early days of websites. The shopping carts weren’t very good. There’s nowhere to really ad run ads. Google was just starting very early days of pay per click advertising. It was really all organic at the time. I used to list on eBay with some early business partners of mine that we sold antiques and we did a lot of eBay listing. So eBay was popping. As it progressed into the 2000s, then you get pay per click coming on, email marketing, blasting emails to lists got very popular. Organic traffic was always popular. And then as you started progressing, Facebook came on and changed the landscape. Retargeting ads came on and changed the landscape. Tools, ecommerce tools like CRO tools and other tools, four websites started coming on and really changing the landscape. So over the years, the early days, it was all organic. That was the only way to drive traffic. Then it became making digital advertising work and then it became honing the conversion rate while making digital advertising work, which allows for scale. So that’s pretty much how it unfolded. Yeah. I mean, I’ve been seeing it from my point of view, being an entrepreneur and starting businesses that are purely digital. And when I go back, there’s always a big new thing. And initially, as you said, it was organic. But the name of the game was SEO. Like it was relatively easy to go on for a lot of search terms in the top five, top 10 of search results. If you put a little bit of refer to it, and you could launch pretty much any company you wanted off this. And because it was so easy to get that traffic and Google had this massive amount of traffic and the search engine for better or worse, I think now is really geared towards the incumbents. So the big brand names, those are people that have done really well in search engine game for 20 years. But in 2007, and you know, it was back in the times of this rate, I don’t know if people remember that, but there was a Google shopping at the time. It was way bigger than Google shopping. It was relatively easy for this rate as well to basically be in the top 10 for any search term, say for an iPhone or even for generic terms. And then there was this day, back in 2008, 2009, when this rate basically launched a $1 billion business of this, and then it was just gone. So Google just pressed the button said, oh, we think now we gave you like a ton of traffic over the years. And now we consider you guys spam and have a good day. So basically they were blacklisted from Google. They were still in there, but they were not visible in the top 100 results. So basically it’s like blacklisting. How do you deal as a market of these sudden changes, right? You optimize for something. It’s kind of like a hedge fund that optimizes for a certain paradigm out there. And then one day Google says, oh, by the way, this is all evil. And then now go figure and do something here. Yeah, well, that’s that’s a really interesting topic you bring up because over the years Google did crack down on sites with less valuable content. So as you know, as you had your own sites, content based sites back in the day, you were able to drive a lot of traffic on your own content based sites, I recall. And yeah, those sites like biz rate, I guess let’s use as an example. I heard a lot of a lot of shenanigans used to go on in the organic results. A lot of affiliates used to spam content into the organic results. They used to put up sites with, you know, hundreds of thousands of pages of manufactured content. And over the years, Google had to really filter the crap out. And they did they did a good job in my estimation. You know, that being said, I’m sure some companies suffered pay to price for, you know, writing off their previous rankings and then oh, one day, you know, your rankings aren’t going to be valid anymore because none of your contents original and, you know, it’s a bunch of product catalog feeds, you know. So, um, yeah, that was, you know, interesting phenomenon but as far as Google organics go, you know, I’ve preached and lived by the same principles for the last 20 years, frequent original content, you know, in a preponderance, quality inbound links where you can attain them. I’d never buying links, but attaining good quality inbound links here and there but really it’s a 95% content strategy proactive content publishing. And if you adhere to that strategy, you will gain organic rankings over over time. You know, the more you publish the more organic traffic you should get if you keep keep it up. So that’s that’s what I tell companies and that’s what I live by myself, my own sites, any company I work with on the, you know, SEO strategy. That’s that’s the strategy and it and I’ve never seen it not work. Now where where it tends to produce more revenue these days is doing things like retargeting the blog readers retargeting the people that come to the site organically with ads to bring them back to the landing page you want to convert them at or, you know, popping up building your email list. So squeezing more out of the content is all the thing to do. In this day and age, then you can invest in content, invest in your growing your SEO, you know, your organic content. And you know, in my opinion, it’s easier to squeeze revenue out of that investment than it was 1015 20 years ago, before the days of retargeting ads, before other tools, you know, website based tools that help capitalize on traffic were in play. It was, you know, they come and they go they come and they go, you know, having a lot of organic traffic back in the day didn’t necessarily lead to massive amounts of revenue. It could depends on what’s being sold and how it’s being positioned. But now I feel like it’s much easier to tie revenue to the channel. And when you say we’re investing in, you know, SEO content, for instance, you know, we’re spending 10,000 a month or 5,000 a month or whatever, we know we’re going to get this much in sales over time. So, yeah, I wanted to use this example for SEO and you’re absolutely right with you describe in the story, how how it happened. What I wanted to use as an example for these big things that are relatively easy for an entrepreneur to take advantage of to get your product out there. And then they suddenly disappear and SEO was kind of the first one I was involved in. And then the second one was Google AdWords, which had a lot of keywords were really cheap, you could literally go to legal advice and buy it for two cents or five cents, maybe not in the US, it would go up to 50 cents pretty quickly. But it was there was a lot of inventory available for any entrepreneur was very affordable. And I agree with you demonetization at the time was the hype because fewer people would buy things online and credit cards online were less accepted. There was no Bitcoin, there was a lot of things that that that makes sites very valuable in the traffic volume and now we’re not invented yet. But as an entrepreneur, it was, it was, it was like, you didn’t even have to worry about getting the ward out you didn’t have to do PR you could do PR if you wanted to but it was kind of seen as dirty, so to speak, right, you didn’t have to really worry about the, the competition with, with, with breaking mortar aside or with other brands because you lived in a digital realm. And then Google AdWords and the Yahoo was at the time still there and being is still there and there’s there’s there’s a couple of non US giants who run this. They suddenly get really expensive, especially in the US, not so much for traffic outside the US was especially in the US. And then 2013, the next thing came around with social media and I remember that growing up on Instagram was, was easy as pie. I mean, you literally just put photos up and you had hundreds of followers just joining whatever you did every day. And then it was a time 2016 or 17 and that was over. So it was the algorithm changed and Facebook changed the algorithm how they promote content in their own way. So suddenly, without changes on your own, and this is what I’m trying to get to you, you have this moving target of you, you’re being pushed into an ecosystem that works for you, it’s cheap, it’s affordable, you can create businesses of that. But then usually it’s Google or Facebook or whoever runs this platform decides, oh, by the way, the rules have changed. And for pretty much everyone, it becomes really much more difficult, literally, because they want to make more money, right? But how do you deal with this constant, you know, you almost, you keep running against the wall and then it appears the wall and then you’re like, okay, let’s write this off and let’s do something else. How do you deal with this emotionally and professionally? Yeah, that’s a great question and a great point. You know, over the years, these platforms have increased their rates. Like you said, early on Google, you could get traffic for 10, 20 cents, you know, a click, now you can’t get a click for under a dollar. I mean, they have in a uncompetitive niche with no competitors, they’re still click cost minimums. So they never had that back in the day makes it a lot harder for newer advertisers to make Google ads work per se. Bing is still, Bing is, you know, they don’t have as much traffic, but they don’t have the minimums that Google has. So I do steer people there or say, you know, you have to run on Bing ads in addition to Google ads. But Facebook as well, Facebook, you know, over the last couple of years, especially in the last year, has jacked up the rates during the political season, during the holiday shopping season, the rates went through the roof. The only way to, so this is the reality of digital advertising where we are. You’re at the mercy of the platform. You’re at the mercy of how many competitors when they decide to jack up the rates. So you don’t really, you can’t really control that. Aside from good optimization and good management where it’s, you know, applicable, but really it falls to the website’s efficacy, the website’s effectiveness. So, you know, for instance, when I work with a client or any company that wants to work with me or my agency, I, you know, insist that they prioritize increasing the website’s conversion rate. So I’ll audit the website, I’ll provide a list of suggestions, tools that I recommend to boost conversion rate, things like social proof, the right review widget, the right pop ups, the right automated email follow ups, the list goes on and on. But those are the main ones. But so, so the company, if, so you’re, if you’re an entrepreneur, you’re a new advertiser, you really have to focus on honing the website’s conversion rate. And I feel like it can be done with all like the apps on Shopify and the, you know, the tools and the apps that they, you know, that are out there, you can plug into any ecommerce site or any website in general. The tools are out there. It’s implementing them properly. So you need to bring in someone, an expert, for instance, or you need to learn up on how to implement those tools. Once, once you have the right tools running the right way on the website, you should be able to make the traffic sources convert well enough. That being said, there are other variables, like how much the traffic ends up costing, how targeted is it, how much intent there is with the traffic source. So every traffic source has a different level of user intent. So like affiliate traffic, for instance, a lot of it doesn’t have a lot of intent, because it’s a banner on a website, a blog, for instance. So you have to really try extra hard to make that traffic convert so they can, affiliates can make money and they can prosper. Something like Google, the intent is there. The search intent is there. So the conversion rate should be higher, but the cost will be higher. So any, regardless of the channel, it’s always the question of the conversion rate not being good enough. In fact, I have a saying, you know, 99% of companies can’t even realize all their search volume, they don’t convert well enough. So 99% of companies aren’t even able to come up in search as much as they ought to be based on their targeted keyword phrases, because their website conversion rate is strangling their ability to spend, you know, an ability to realize all the volume out there, their targeted search volume. So it’s a huge problem. It’s always been a problem. And over time, it’s gotten to be a little bit more of a, worse of a problem, because of the costs increasing further. So, but at the end of the day, you always have to really prioritize conversion rate optimization on the site, or the landing page, if you’re going to advertise effectively online and achieve scale. Yeah. Tell me a little bit more about Shopify. That’s maybe just me. I know very little about Shopify and what it actually does. And it sounds like it’s just ecommerce or basically just you have a site where you sell something in terms of products. But I think it’s more than that. What I know, and that’s only from Cloudflare, what they have done over time is because they run 50% of the internet traffic, you have an enormous amount of apps that you can basically put in between your site and Cloudflare as a public access point. And it’s all tracking, it’s kind of heat maps, it’s ways to increase conversion to track your traffic, is to retarget. So all these things they’ve been adding, I think this is how they make money, because I always wanted how Cloudflare will make money. They have all this kind of dumb traffic, and they’re streaming traffic, and they seem to have no way of directly making money. Is Shopify similar to that, or is it something completely different? I know too little about it. Yeah, they’re different platforms with different purposes, similar in that they’re website based platforms. Cloudflare is more on the, like you said, the access points to the website, making sure it’s secure, making sure it’s fast, making sure it’s all the things Cloudflare does, that are very valuable. You want to have those things in place so you can have a fast website, have a very accessible website, don’t get your website hacked. So very valuable tool set around Cloudflare. Shopify is more on the eCommerce side. So it’s a true, it’s an eCommerce platform that has a giant app directory, which they’re basically a bunch of tools. There’s several thousand, they call them apps, but they’re really tools. So they have basically one click implementation into the website, one click installation of the tool into the website. So if you want to launch a customer referral widget, refer a friend, find the one you want, click a button, boom, installed. You want to launch a CRO tool, find the one you want, one click it, boom, installed. You want to launch a retargeting platform, boom, done. So on that level, they’ve far exceeded any of the other eCommerce platforms, in my opinion, for bringing tools to websites. And in my opinion, tools, bringing tools to websites has revolutionized eCommerce. Even before the pandemic and the surge online, it was already surging. It was already surging. And the tools were facilitating people purchasing online and it was helping. That being said, so where Shopify has really stolen the show is you can be a small merchant and they have a solution for you all the way up to the biggest merchants enterprise level. They have a solution for you. So now they run the whole gamut, the smallest to the biggest. And that’s where no other eCommerce platform is touching them right now. And not to mention they have a really nice dashboard for their store owners, their shop owners. They’ve put a lot of effort into building out the dashboard, making it nice, you know, making it suggest things, add this, add that, check this out, check that out. So they’ve done a good job. It’s taken a while to get there. But I’d say in the last year, year to two, they’ve really advanced the product, you know, as far as usability of the store owners. And so yeah, so the problem though is, and while all of that sounds great, the flip side is people that launch stores aren’t necessarily successful. So what’s the churn rate? You know, my gut instinct is it’s probably over 70% of people that that launch a store, abandon it within a year or two. Okay, because they just can’t make it work. They can’t drive enough traffic to it, make it convert well enough to get a return. So they abandoned the project. But that’s, you know, that’s just the flip side. That’s like the underbelly of, you know, people that sometimes come my way and say, I have a Shopify store, how do I grow this thing? And then it leads into a conversation like this of how it’s done and why it’s you’re finding it so difficult. So it’s definitely not easy to just, you know, throw up an ecommerce store and make it successful. It’s still very, very difficult. Regardless of how many people have surged online, it’s still a big task to make it work. Yeah, a lot of people, a lot of people jumped on that opportunity back in in March, especially because seemingly a lot of demand patterns that have been stable for some time changed immediately. I mean, travel was down. There was a luxurious items were down everything that was, you know, I’m not absolutely needed was down. But then there was a lot of PPE equipment. There was suddenly needed and it was hard to get. So a lot of people jumped in to the scene if they had inventory, they had a supplier and tried to take advantage of this. Is that something you can pull off in like a couple of days, literally a couple of weeks or do you need like a more wholesome story and strategy to it to actually pull off an ecommerce store? Because I always felt it’s very, very competitive out there. I never really had an ecommerce store on my own. I always felt so competitive and has been super competitive the last 20 years that I always felt so you can obviously pull it up. But how do you find the demand unless you already know the demand like literally have a newsletter and there’s 20,000 people on it that actually want to buy only from you. But unfortunately, I was never in that position. Well, again, it’s back to, you know, a very difficult thing to make work regardless of how many people are shopping online now. You still, how to make it work, you advertise with Google, you advertise with Bing, you advertise with Facebook, you grow your email list, you find affiliates, you do things on the site to make the site convert better. Over time, if you do those things effectively, you can make it work and grow it and make it work, you know, methodically over time. But as far as jumping in there and making, you know, a big splash in a month, no, I don’t think so. It may happen here or there with a, you know, some things, you know, may be able to be the, you know, the aberration or whatever the word would be. But in general, you know, what I tell companies is, you know, companies grow annually, right? Companies grow annually. What you do year two should far exceed what you did year one online. Let’s say you commerce, for instance, you know, year two will far exceed year one, and then year three should exceed year two, probably by not the same amount, but still, you know, exponential. It depends, though, on the niche, how competitive it is, how good you’re doing at selling on your site, what exactly you’re selling, if it’s in demand, if it’s a good product, if people have a high level of satisfaction, so they repeat purchase. Many factors involved in making an ecommerce, you know, endeavor successful, you have to hit on all those cylinders. You have to hit on all cylinders, make all channels work simultaneously. And that’s what I believe in a multi channel approach, making all the channels, you know, work. They all have to be tested, you know, you know, TikTok isn’t going to work for everyone and Google isn’t going to work for everyone and Facebook may not work for everyone. But they all have to be tested with the right strategy in place, with the right tools in place. If you try to test them without the right strategy or tools, you’ll end up saying this channel just doesn’t work. And that would be an inaccurate statement, because it just wasn’t done properly with the right tools in place. So I hear that a lot, you know, Google ads doesn’t work, Facebook ads doesn’t work for me. You just didn’t do it properly. That being said, if I’m involved and it’s not working, then maybe it isn’t going to work. But still, it should be made to work. There isn’t a channel out there that’s what I consider a high quality traffic source, like Google, like Facebook, Bing even, affiliate traffic that you can’t make work. If people are searching and the product is fitting their needs, you should be able to make that work and get a return on ad spend. That’s acceptable or ROI. But it’s always a project. Everything is a different industry, different budget, different conversion rate. So a lot of the strategies are the same, but each project is just its own entity, so it just has to be made to work. Yeah. I mean, you mentioned social media advertising, and I’ve been involved into some TikTok trials. I mean, just trying out TikTok for my own businesses. And the challenge seems to be twofold. One is, generally, if you have an account on Instagram and it has a million followers, you kind of have a guarantee that, say, 100,000, maybe, or 200,000 followers will actually see the post. They might not like it, but they see it and they can react to it in a positive, negative way, or they can just ignore it because they find it of no interest. But TikTok, the problem is that the algorithm is not really taking the account as much to follow a structure. So you might have two million followers, but you put up a post because your advertiser post is sponsored and slightly different than the regular post. They might only get 1,000 views instead of like 100,000 or 200,000. So I find it really difficult to predict the success and also predict the deal with one of the influencers that you have to strike. Their current rates are somewhere around 100 to $1,000 or even more than that. And I find it really difficult to find a pricing and the creators have the same problem, right? They have maybe some posts that are skyrocketing with millions of views and the next one gets 200,000, and it doesn’t really grow from there, despite huge follower counts. So I find it really difficult to make that work and then find an agreement that works for everyone involved. Second also, third, I find it difficult to convert that traffic. There’s a lot of browsing, there’s a lot of people who are underage, the user base is very strong in the 12 to 18 year old, a little less or much less once you go further. And the credit card spending is just not a thing you do when you’re under 18 and maybe some teenagers can use their parents credit card, but it’s still the way to actually sell something is very long and it’s more like a long term investment. It’s very tempting, right? Because you talk to teenagers who have 100 million followers and they would say, oh, just do a post $100 and then you get to go. So you try a lot of things and you lose a lot of hope. So that’s kind of my personal experience with a lot of social media advertising. We’ve done similar things on Instagram and Facebook, but the influences on TikTok are kind of enigma to me. I don’t know how to make money off TikTok. Maybe you know. Well, you bring up a good topic in general because the reality of it is even influencers with a large following on these platforms, when they do an organic post, it may not do anything. Organic posts, regardless of how many followers they have, may not do a dime of revenue or it may do a little bit of revenue. But in my opinion, you can’t count on any revenue from an organic post. That being said, where the power of these influencers are is having them create the content for the company. So they create the content for the brand and then the brand or the advertiser uses that content in their own ad campaigns. So you have a TikTok influencer or an Instagram influencer make a story for you, right? You take this, you pay them for the story. You take the story and you run it in your own Instagram ad campaigns, you know, Facebook slash Instagram ad campaigns. Same thing on TikTok. You take the vertical video, the story that they create, that you’re paying them to do. You take the content and you run it in your own ad campaigns on TikTok. But here’s the caveat. That strategy works well on Facebook and Instagram. I know definitively that taking influencer created content for the brand and using it in the brand’s ad campaigns is a great way to make those ad campaigns convert well, especially to the retargeting audience, even top of the funnel. That’s some of the best type of ad unit you can use on Facebook and Instagram is influencer created content, right? But on TikTok, the reality of it is, you know, I don’t care how cheap the traffic is, you know, as far as, you know, when you pay to advertise, it could be 10 cents a click. If the conversion rate isn’t there, you’re still going to lose money. So their challenge is, yeah, they have a ton of volume, a ton of volume, but the only companies you really see advertising are big brands because they’re throwing branding dollars at it. And I do see here and there some smaller, smaller dogs like like a CBD company or this or that, like smaller brands trying to run ads, you know, and try to make it work. But, you know, I’ve run some campaigns on there and seeing that it drives a lot of clicks and not many conversions, if at all. But that’s my experience, I don’t want to generalize and say no brand or advertiser can make that work. But at least from what I’ve seen and to your point of the demographic and the nature of the app, they’re not, you know, in buying mode. They’re browsing, you know, idiotic videos, some more than others, some are valuable, some not. But the majority of it’s not, let’s be honest. So, yeah, the main user base is people that don’t have income, right? And that’s one challenge. And the other challenge is the nature of the app is not exactly shopping oriented. Now, they may bring that on as they bring on like shopping features, like what Instagram did, then maybe it’ll get into a range of, yeah, we can get a return on ad spend here. But until they have good ecommerce shopping features, for instance, and things that really facilitate the sale or the lead, then to me, I wouldn’t spend a dime on maybe testing it a little bit, a few hundred bucks, whatever. It depends what, you know, what the budget looks like. But, but yeah, it’s not exactly a direct response oriented. Yeah, yeah, I mean, that’s an interesting way to put it. I feel like it’s something that has a lot of potential, but we will have to see how it actually plays out. There is an ethical aspect to this and we talked about that before. There seems to be the obvious interest from social media companies to get as much data as possible from you and harvest it across your browsing history. They buy a lot of data from public marketplaces. You cable company gives them your records. Your phone company gives them records and Alexa has all the speech records that they accumulate. So there’s a lot of data that they obviously need from a business perspective because all that targeting kind of runs through the AI and creates that model kind of you’re similar to that person where we know this person buys plasma screens twice a year. So you might also be interested in a plasma screen. So I fully understand the business case, but the amount of data that they able to procure because it’s gotten so big on one hand through their own activity, but also from third parties like Facebook isn’t pretty much any other app that you find in the app store. Even if you don’t use Facebook on your phone, you’re still being targeted and fully surveilled by Facebook. What do you feel the ethical story there is do you do? And obviously as a marketer, you need that data because you need to make the AI work. Do you think there will be a backlash? People have been talking about this, but it’s been ignored publicly for the last five, ten years. Do you think this is going to continue or there will be a massive backlash? And you get kind of a privacy shield that you can use on your phone or you can use on your computer. How do you see this whole area? Yeah, I think over time as the privacy stuff has unfolded in Europe and overseas and a little bit here, over time it will continue to unfold and give people the option to remove themselves from being targeted in certain ways. But I have to tell you, I don’t think 98% of people aren’t even going to care about not being targeted like that. You have a very small percentage of people that are obsessed with it and then you have maybe a few that are concerned with it. In general, I don’t see it really coming on too strictly because at the end of the day, the online advertising world is driven by these platforms. So if you crack down on these platforms ability to target, not saying they should have free reign over anything and everything, I’m not saying that. But if you restrict their ability to target, it just reduces the responsiveness of the ads and the ability to target and things like that. So the forces that keep all of that where it is, some of these Facebook, Google, Apple, these are the biggest companies in the world. So they’re not going to let anything jeopardize their ability to serve ads to people and make money off of it. Like I said, it may get a little stricter in certain ways, what you can and cannot do with data behind the scenes or allowing a person to control how they’re being targeted with ads and opting out maybe. But again, I don’t think many people really care about it or too concerned. They’re just regular people going about their internet, browsing on their phone or whatever, like they do, clicking on ads if it looks interesting or they recognized they were there three days ago or oblivious to Google’s ads at the top if they’re paid or not. Most people don’t even give a crap, right? So at least here in the US, other countries I can’t speak for, and I know they’re more concerned about these things elsewhere. But that’s not my concern because my focus is in the US. But yeah. Yeah, no, I think that’s a very practical view. I feel like from a technical perspective, it’s very easy to an Eric Weinstein was saying that Apple goes through a lot of trouble to have all the activation of cameras and microphones completely software based. It would be much easier to have a little switch on the side from day one. Maybe now it’s a little different. But they go through a lot of effort to collect that data. But from a technical perspective, it’s relatively easy to reject third party cookies or to have most of the apps open source in terms of their privacy issues. And there were researchers who did this for TikTok. It’s really not hard to see the analyze the network traffic for the TikTok app and then you see what it actually does. Every kid can do this every 12 year old. Then you just block the sites that are not TikTok servers and then the app will stop working, right? But you could say, oh, no, you need to have verified like we work with HTTPS. It needs to be verified your server or you can’t use this in your app. So all the tracking would go away because then you know the traffic is only between you and TikTok. I mean, they can do something on server side, but that’s much more within much more harder to track someone through third parties. And the same is true. Like for browser identification, it’s relatively easy to have browsers now out there who have a unique fingerprint. And so you can’t be tracked. Every single request is a unique fingerprint. And otherwise, like right now, you don’t even need cookies to track people. So the technical abilities to prevent tracking is actually pretty easy. But as you say, I mean, the lobby billions are obviously on the other side. They’re like, let’s leave everything the way it is. And let’s make money from it. And I’m not denying there is efficiency, right? I mean, the way for marketers and entrepreneurs to target their potential customers is fantastic. This is something they’ve never had before. There’s this old statement that you never know which part of the advertising budget is saved and which one is targeting customers who actually never convert. So you go out and you let it rain and you never know what conversion there will be and who’s going to be responsive. But the digital advertising, we have a lot more data and we go down really, really specifically now into targeting and then the AI is also targeting not just we target by demographics and by interest. The AI goes deeper into it and sees, okay, these people might be in the cohort that should be targeted at this end. So I think it’s a great thing for entrepreneurs in theory. But given that it’s so monopolized, I feel it hasn’t really worked out so well. So in my own theory, I feel the last five, 10 years with less of a widespread entrepreneurship and less adoption of technology. A lot of this is that entrepreneurs, young companies, unless they have huge funding rounds like Uber had and obviously Airbnb had, it’s very difficult for them to find their customers on mass. It is possible, obviously, in a niche, niche, niche, niche, you can make this happen, but the connection with your customer has gotten really expensive. And a lot for a lot of startups, they need basically free access to customers in order to take off, like to go to a series A or go to series B. And I feel the monopolization of online advertising is responsible for that. Like a big deal of less entrepreneurship that we’ve seen is because of their monopolistic practices that they have adopted. In order to make money, obviously, they are following a path of maximization there. But I always feel there should be a competitor. There should be a next thing that’s coming and that really breaks up as a monopoly, but hasn’t happened in the last 10 years. Well, I agree with you that competition is good, but the reality of it is there only can be one Google, there only can be one Facebook, there only can be one Instagram, there only can be one LinkedIn. And there only can be one Twitter for that matter, but these platforms, they’ve grown their user bases and the user experience, and they all have their distinct advantages, right? Where they’re light years ahead of anyone who would try to go in and do that similar thing. So not to mention Google is great at what they do. They’re all great at what they do. And they have thousands of people working to make it better. So very hard to compete with something like that that has such a light speed advantage in so far ahead and so many developers on it, so many high level people on it, you’re just not going to be able to catch up. Yeah, for sure. But you don’t want to create a better Google. You do want to create a way to connect with your potential customers. It doesn’t have to be Google, right? LinkedIn doesn’t do what Twitter does. Twitter doesn’t do what Google does. But they all connect you with potential new customers. So this is literally thousands of different applications who could do that. Because I’m doing it, right? I’m not saying they don’t do it. But I feel there isn’t one big thing right now for entrepreneurs to just give to reach their customers for very low amounts of money. You know, Uber gave everyone free rides. That was kind of cool, but it’s really expensive. You cannot do it unless you have a billion dollar funding grant. Right. So I agree. It’s really hard to break into any niche as an entrepreneur, whether it’s an ecommerce store or whether it’s a SaaS tool, a cloud based tool, which has been very hot for a while, business tools, cloud based business tools. But I see the cloud based business tools growing exponentially in this day and age, more so than a new ecommerce site, for instance. Now, that being said, a new ecommerce brand could prop up something like Roman. And they do it with a lot of TV advertising. What happens with these companies, what I’ve noticed is once they achieve some amount of success online, and they have that investment round, they take the money and they throw it at TV, right? And the reality of it is TV does drive user acquisition. There’s no doubt about it. So when you combine decent digital advertising strategy with a boatload of TV advertising, you can really ramp up your customer acquisition. But in order to do that, you have to have the money. So those companies have a huge advantage that can actually tap into that marketing budget and really blow through the budget. Whereas a smaller company is getting it out of the mud, as they say, it’s much harder to make. It works as an entrepreneur, bootstrapping it, funding it yourself, with other investors money that you’ve asked, whatever it invests. So still possible, but they would have to tap into someone who really understood digital marketing and how to do online advertising and make it work online. If they tapped into someone like that, then in my opinion, they can make it work. Yeah. Yeah, I wanted to ask you, that was kind of my next question. What is a company where you feel like, well, they’ve really been able to grow in the last couple of years, or like two years, maybe, in a bootstrap manner to a huge audience size. And on the other hand, as a success story, and maybe on the other hand, a company that were you expected, even with the big budget, it would make a big impact, but it didn’t go anywhere. Yeah, it’s hard to name names. I mean, most of the companies, like I said, that will grow, like I said, someone like a Freshly, or a Roman, or companies that are able to bootstrap it and grow some box companies, subscription box companies. That’s been very hot. I’ve seen several get big and sell themselves, get acquired. There’s a lot of wine companies, like online wine stores that seem to have taken off. Box of pet snacks, pet treats once a month, or baby things once a month, or the monthly box subscription services. I’ve seen quite a few of them. I talked to a perfume company, like a monthly kind of random perfumes that you can try and then you get a little more in the next delivery. Yeah, beauty products is very popular. Anything on a monthly subscription basis, monthly subscription stuff is really rocketed the last few years. So when people come to me and they say, what kind of business should I start? Anything on a monthly subscription, whether it’s a box, monthly box, or it’s an online service that charges monthly, whatever it is, monthly, monthly, monthly. Subscription based businesses are all of the thing to do because they’re residual. They’re residual, so you can do the customer acquisition and then retain the current customers and charge them more. So once you’re retaining and renewing and rebuilding people, that can help fund or offset the cost of new user acquisition. So anything on a subscription basis is all of the thing to do, in my opinion. Ecommerce is tough to start an ecommerce store and make it work. Very difficult. Not even going to sugarcoat it. So I see subscription stuff and B2B tools, SaaS tools. That’s a good industry that I recommend people go into that are asking me what should they go into. And I’m in that space too. I’m building tools and working with companies that build tools. So in my opinion, the tool scene is where it’s at, where the money’s at, and where a lot of companies like Intercom, Drift, the list goes on and on of cloud based companies that have grown exponentially the last three to five years and are really crushing it. I agree with you. This field has definitely been, I mean, for consumers as well as for businesses, I almost feel it’s a little easier for consumers, the subscription model, but for businesses. I started the SaaS company, so to speak, 20 years ago, and it was just crushingly difficult to explain the model because at the time it was you buy a license, it’s a lifetime license, or at least it’s a long term license. And you put it on your servers or you put it on your desktops, and that was it. And we started that 20 years ago and said, no, you know, you pay $500 a month or you pay $200 a month depending on the specific product. And it was basically only targeting the businesses. And it was almost impossible sell because they were like, we don’t own it, we will not buy it. I mean, but we said, well, any software you buy, you don’t own it, you just get a license. It was impossible to even explain. And now I think these are higher priced, depending on where you start, Slack is doing very well with the low price tag. But generally, the idea seems to be if you sell the businesses, there’s a higher subscription price, say $99 or up to $500 a month. And if you go to consumers, it’s somewhere in the Netflix zones, it’s somewhere between $1 and $20 a month. That seems to be the hotspot. And I fully agree with you. This is a model that incorporates a lot of, it’s also a lot of problems that online marketers have, because the revenue per customer is relatively high, because the lifetime value is relatively high, because people don’t just cancel their subscription, there’s a little bit of hassle sometimes involved. And even if it’s not, they like to try it out, and then maybe they forget about it, or maybe they love it in many cases. So there is a certain lifetime value that you can go out and raise money on, right? If you have a lifetime value per customer, that’s $200 or $300. That’s something you can even go to the bank. I think there’s a bunch of people, you can even go to Stripe. Stripe, you can say, this is the track you’re going to use. Stripe is your credit card processor. This is my track lifetime value. Why don’t you give me some financing? And Stripe is very open to this now. If they see your cash flow, they give you money in advance. And that’s not like it can be a loan, but it can be an equity investment. And there’s a company, I talked to a pioneer, they actually track your Stripe as well, and they’re part of the Stripe ecosystem. But they give you up to a million dollars if they see that you are scaling up your Stripe subscriptions. So they don’t even talk to you. They look at your Stripe for two days, and they see, give you a goal, and you break that goal, and they’re like, okay, use the million dollars, have fun. And they do this to anyone in Uganda or wherever you are. So I think it’s a great metric, and not just for yourself, because it works, but also because investors love this trend. It’s better than just eyeballs. They see, okay, this has a real value, and we put a number on it, and then it all goes down to the customer lifetime value. But then you’re done, right? You can literally just let it run on autopilot, unless your acquisition costs change a lot. Yeah, all the investment is going into these type of tools. They don’t even want to talk to you unless you are filling people monthly. They don’t even want to talk to you. And I don’t blame them, because every single one of those I’ve seen has just blown up into a huge thing. They’re hiring all these people, and the funny thing is, the people, they’re not necessarily brilliant people that are coming up with these tools. They’re smart people, definitely are. Much respect, but I see people that aren’t that smart, having wildly successful tools out there. This is the place to go, right? If you see the entrepreneurial test, if you see people who are kind of just got lucky, and they don’t really know what they’re talking about, they still make a ton of money, then this is where you want to be. You never know if this trend lasts, but that seems to be the ultimate test. Yeah, and I think it’s going to last. The only thing that wouldn’t make it last is just saturation. There can only be so many live chat tools. There can only be so many sales tools. That being said, if you do it a little different, or you do it with AI, or you do it something a little bit more effective, you can woo people over. You can say, listen, you need to leave Salesforce, because our tool blows away Salesforce, or you need to leave Drift, because our tools drift on steroids, or our chatbot is superior to the one you’re currently using. You can always steal clients away like that. It’s still very much wide open, in my opinion. There’s still room there to make moves. Yeah, I think that’s really good advice. This is a hot segment, and I agree with you. It’s going to stay hot for quite some time. It makes life a little bit easier. The good news is also, for most entrepreneurs, you can scale this up within bootstrap budget. You don’t need to worry about a billion dollars. You don’t have to worry about the vision front. There’s very little overhead. Yeah, you just need yourself a little bit of content, and maybe a few people that know marketing, and you can pull that off. Well, you do need the code. You do need the devs, though. The cost is in having the product, the app developed, the tool, product of the app, whatever it is. The cost is really in the dev, and having really good dev people on it. Once you spend what you need to spend to get the tool created, then you can start, and you bring on some clients, and you can start hiring the salespeople, and the customer success people, and all that. That can fund also more dev upkeep and building the tool into more features. Then it starts like snowballing. When people ask me what they should go into online, tools, that’s always my first answer. Help me a little bit to understand how you feel this role of an outside marketing agency. It really plays out, but your clients, they might be smaller corporations, bigger corporations, a single entrepreneur. How do you feel you can get this effective knowledge transfer to work? I think this is what you’re really after. How do you A, find them, and B, how do you interact with a certain organization that probably already has good marketing or not? I mean, but I assume it’s not terrible. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be around anymore, and they wouldn’t want to spend money on you. How does this interaction work? Do you think it’s gotten easier or harder to just basically be in your own or be in the part of a digital agency that isn’t in New York City and has like 5,000 people over the last couple of years? Great question. The digital agency game has gotten a lot more cluttered. There’s a lot more agencies out there. I mean, there’s people out there trying to convince people to just own agencies with no background. I mean, there’s courses out there. There’s people pushing the concept of start your own agency with no experience. On TikTok, right? Everywhere. YouTube, Facebook, everywhere. Everywhere you can advertise. Things like that are getting pushed out there. Part of it is a lot of bad agencies out there, a lot of crappy agencies out there. Where my agency is different is I work with all the clients myself. I have people managing the ad campaigns and optimizing them, but I do all the strategy, deal with the clients and drive all the what’s being done with the ad campaigns to make them work. The CRO on the website, like we talked about, unless you implement an approach that addresses the website’s conversion rate and run very effective ad campaigns with the right strategy, that’s the winning combination right there. There’s no way around it. I don’t care how good you are at managing Google ads or whatever platform it is, you’re still at the mercy of the website’s performance or effectiveness. There’s a lot of that. I’d say 99.9% of agencies will just come in there and say, oh yeah, we’ll take over your Google ads campaign or your LinkedIn or your Facebook ads, and we’ll just do it better. That’s a horrible argument to win the business. Not that that can’t work because they do. They are able to just convince companies that don’t know what the right approach should be, that they can maybe manage the ads better. What also has to be overcome is previous working with agencies previously. They’ve had bad experiences working with them previously. Their in house team has had bad experiences running ad campaigns that didn’t work as well as they wanted. You’re overcoming bad agency experiences and in house people not able to make the campaigns work well enough. When I speak to the client, obviously it’s, what can we do to the website to improve it? What have you tried previously? Let’s analyze that and I’m going to explain why it didn’t work. Then we’re going to come in and make it work better because we’re going to address the CRO and manage the campaigns more effectively, in my opinion. That strategy in itself is going to lead to better results. As far as their in house staff, clients will hire me to work with their in house staff just to make them more effective digital marketers to how they’re managing the campaigns, what their strategy is, how they even perceive digital advertising and how to make it work and how to make it scale. I’ll coach them, mentor them, hone their skills and just turn them into rock stars quote unquote by just honing their skills basically. That’s something I do with companies that can be effective. You mentioned that just briefly and I was approached, I don’t know how they find me, but there must be a good way to look that up. A lot of agencies, so to speak, often from Eastern Europe approached me. One thing that I always get approached is we built your mobile app. I have 30 of those emails every day. That seems to be a thing, but the other thing that is much more rare, but it’s companies that basically say, well, we change your eAdWords campaigns, we change your LinkedIn campaigns, as you say, and give us a week or two. And if the RI hasn’t gone up, you don’t owe us anything. Obviously, if it’s gone the wrong way, then I don’t get anything paid from them. But they basically say, why don’t you try it out? And if you run a campaign $10,000 a month and the URI improves, your cost per customer goes down, and you save $1,000 a month, you would give that agency 20% of those savings or 50% of the savings, those different pitches. I always felt it’s a really strong pitch. Right now, I don’t spend that much on Google AdWords, but I’m like, well, what’s the real risk? The risk is that they miss that you overspend for a week or two, but they must have done this before you can check some of the credentials. I always felt this is a really good pitch because as an advertising agency, you really have no upfront costs. You basically work with the client, you’re very much aligned, and then you make potentially a ton of money, right? Because if that keeps continuing, if your knowledge really shows off in these campaigns and the conversion goes up, you like make easily $1,000 a month from just one customer. Is it something you’ve considered? Is it something you find as common, or you feel like this is just not worth doing it because you don’t understand the concept? Yeah, it’s a gimmick. Like anything, it’s a gimmick of a way to get in the door or a way to take over their ad campaigns and supposedly make them work better. It can work. It depends on those campaigns that they’re taking over how effective they were. But like I said, if they’re not addressing the conversion aspect, then they may or may not be able to run more effective campaigns. They may. It’s a gamble. It’s a roll of dice. It depends how… But Google and Facebook show you a conversion, right? It’s very apparent what the conversion is. I mean, it doesn’t mean that it’s the same lifetime value, but for the short term conversion, it’s perfectly trackable. Yeah, and like I said, it can be an effective way to go about it, but just because they charge you in a gimmicky kind of way, in my opinion, doesn’t mean they know what they’re doing, right? And they could cost you money, potentially. The cost per customer could go up. And then, okay, we’re not going to pay you any fee, but your cost per customer just went up. So it’s truly a roll of the dice. And I wouldn’t hinge the decision on any kind of way they charge. I wouldn’t base the decision on that because regardless of how they charge, what you want are better results at the end of the day. So to me, it’s about this strategy, the approach, the methodology, the process, who’s actually managing the ads? Are they actually trying to make the conversion rate go up? If those things aren’t in place, then how they charge is pointless, in my opinion. Now, we have done things where we would charge like a percentage of the return on ad spend or the ROI. So you can charge based on not a monthly fee necessarily, but 20% of the return on ad spend, for instance, or 20% of the profit. There’s different ways of structuring it. I’ve always been comfortable the way I do it. I’ll do a monthly fee that’s affordable, in my opinion, and then we’ll get a piece of the revenue or the upside that we realize or we help the client realize we’ll get maybe like a piece of the conversion increase. There’s different ways of structuring it that work for both parties. Yeah. I’m asking for a friend for this one. No, I’m just curious. So the travel industry, obviously, has fallen apart, right? 90% of international flights have stopped operating. And depending on the country where you go, 50% to 60% of the domestic flights are still in operation. And many of them are certainly on a lower cost. There’s amazing deals out there if you know where to look. And the travel industry is close to my heart. I have a current travel startup. I had one before that. I was involved in another one before that. So I always felt like strongly about travel. In your experience, and given how much of a minefield travel is now, what do you think in the travel industries are trends that actually work? We’ve seen the demise kind of Expedia and Google flights is now coming on and kind of taking over the whole flight search and the flight booking to an extent where you can’t usually you can’t book it through Google flights. You have to go through another site, but it’s kind of taken over the meta search and it’s also taking over what Expedia used to do to an extent Expedia is still relevant and they’re being linked, but it’s kind of in danger of dying out so to speak. Most of the money they made came from hotels and those hotel business has changed way more than the airline business, I feel. Where do you think in digital advertising and digital marketing for travel, do you have trends where you feel like, whoa, this is really going to take off? And these are things where you feel like, whoa, this has gotten much harder than it used to be. Well, it’s going to be dictated by the consumer’s demand to travel. When that returns, all of that stuff is going to return. It’s going to take a while because of how everything was handled and how this pandemic has spread around and all of that. And I don’t know what can be done. I’d have to think about it. What can be done in the short term to try to make the channel execute better, conversion convert better would always be my answer, but it’s kind of like one of those things that the whole industry is just going to have to wait. They’re just going to have to take the loss for a year or two. And then when it roars back, be in a position to capitalize. But it’s going to be tough the next year until it returns to 70%, 80%, 90% of what it used to be. It’s just one of those things that unfortunately was really negatively impacted by what happened. Yeah, that’s for sure. I feel the travel landscape will look quite different than it used to be. You basically shut it off and then you switch it on again. And usually you see this in other industries. We saw this with the general newcomers in 2000. A lot of stuff that was kind of hypey and didn’t work or was just barely profitable anyways, that kind of went away. And then a lot of things that would have come anyways, whether it might have taken five or 10 or 15 years, they suddenly just get 90% of the market share. And I see this with Google Flights. I see this generally with Flight Search, what happened. And I feel there’s a bunch of destinations who are different. And I see this also with, you know, how airlines are operating. There’s like Qatar, you could say it was especially hard hit. You can’t even immigrate to Doha anymore. But they’ve been able to keep up most of their travel network, most of their flights, even to Australia. And those Turkish airways, they’re basically back to the same destinations they had. They don’t fly daily, but they have the same amount of destinations. And they’ve been pretty strong and growing strongly and been a strong trend because our cost space is so low. And they’re basically back to old form. Obviously, not the passenger volume is back. So it’s only like it’s 60%, but they only basically operate international flights. They only have three or four domestic flights. So there’s success stories. And then you have like KLM who basically shut down their whole operation or Norwegian that basically doesn’t exist anymore. And travel as a digital thing was on the forefront. I think for a long time, it was on the forefront of digital marketing. And then kind of, I don’t know what happened or maybe nothing happened the last 10 years. It didn’t really accelerate so well out of this. There was like Iceland Air, I forgot the name, Vau Air, who really created a huge bus with their campaigns and came out of nowhere and just created this huge amount of flights. And then it went away again two weeks, two years later. It seems true for Norwegian. So there was a bunch of companies who really used digital marketing to the extreme and then went away. And I don’t see travel as much anymore as a trailblazer for digital marketing. I don’t know why that is. Maybe it’s just because the travel industry is such a weird place. It is a really weird place with very conservative people, but conservative in a weird way. They really have zero curiosity. There’s zero interest in innovation. Well, you’re right because for many years, travel companies, you know, travel velocity, Expedia, Price Line, they really led definitely the travel industry. But like you said, digital advertising, those are some of the biggest advertisers online because that was such a good, so many people traveled. And it was just a good industry to be in until 2020. I thought even before that, like the last 10 years, there wasn’t as much. The volume was maybe the same, but the growth rate and the innovation was basically going down to zero before that, like say 2015 already. Well, I think some of that is it evolved as much as it could. It evolved as much as it could because it was such a good industry to be in for so many years that that funded a lot of the evolution of those companies and what they were doing online. And then it all had to come to a screeching halt. But yeah, I mean, it got saturated like anything, but travel was still pumping along all the way up until last year. I mean, it may have been plateauing, like you said, for a few years because it hadn’t reached a high level. It hadn’t reached saturation. There’s only so many people traveling. There’s only so many ads you can run. So that may be part of it. It reached saturation. Yeah. I mean, on that maybe positive note because it’s hopefully going to come back. Thanks for doing this, Evan. That was fantastic. I learned a lot. Thanks for taking the time. Thanks for having me. Yeah, it definitely will come back. And you know what’s going to, you know, they’ll be testing people and vaccinating passports, you know, vaccine passports. And they’re going to do what needs to be done to get the travel industry back up and running. It’s just going to take a little time to get those ducks in a row and get those processes in place. But once all those logistics are in place and everyone’s getting vaccinated, it’s going to come back, roaring back. It’s definitely going to come back. So the key is to be positioned well when it comes roaring back. Yeah, I agree. I agree with you. Well, thanks again for doing this. And I hope we can talk again once things have changed a little bit. And I hope to see what’s the next big thing in advertising. Yes, thanks for having me. Evan, thank you. Bye bye.