How I Disrupted The Ad Industry And Grew My Business To $20M/Year

$1,700,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
130
Employees
product
MonetizeMore
from Victoria
started January 2010
$1,700,000
revenue/mo
1
Founders
130
Employees
137K
alexa rank
442
followers
4.34K
followers
2.88K
subs
productivity
other

Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

I’m the Founder & CEO of MonetizeMore. I started MonetizeMore in 2010 with the goal to build a bootstrapped business that would dramatically increase ad revenues for publishers.

Over the years, I perfected the proprietary MonetizeMore ad optimization model which has surpassed $20M annual revenues by increasing ad revenues for hundreds of publisher networks in over 40 countries.

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MonetizeMore works with publishers that get millions of users per month and monetizes them via display ads. We are able to make these publishers more money by improving the auction for each of their ad impressions. Our tech increases the number of advertisers bidding for their ad impressions via strategic partnerships and running a more efficient auction. This results in higher ad revenues for our publisher partners.

I am a pioneer in ad optimization covering areas like AdSense / Ad Exchange (AdX), Google Ad Manager (GAM), header bidding and ad network optimization. I have always believed in empowering publishers to increase their ad revenues more efficiently and effectively via articles, videos and technology.

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What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

I originally fell in love with the online industry when working for a large online classified network. The job was an immense learning experience but once the recession hit, the company decided to lay off the marketing department. I lost the best job I ever had but I was determined to turn the bad into something great.

With the devotion to improve a little bit every single day, one can accumulate incredible improvement and success.

Five days later, I'm on a plane to South America to go on a life changing trip. Four months into my backpacking trip I was on a four-day trek through the incredible Inca trail towards Machu Picchu. By the end of it, I was sitting on top of Wayna Picchu reflecting on my experiences throughout my trip. I have had the most fulfilling time of my life and it finally clicked:

I will work and travel when I want, where I want.

I have to start a digital business to enable this autonomous lifestyle. When I came back to Canada I was set to build my skills and come up with my big business idea. To do this, I made websites and tried out affiliate marketing. I grew important digital marketing and basic coding skills to bolster my capabilities and come up with that big idea.

A big reason for my early success was that I was malleable in that we focused on results and less about the internal business early on. My goal was to achieve measurable revenue increases for businesses. This was originally going to be achieved by the below offerings:

  • SEO
  • Social media optimization
  • Analytics consultation
  • Ad inventory optimization
  • Customer usage model optimization

I quickly found out that the greatest opportunity to grow measurable revenues was via ad inventory optimization. Rather than sticking with all offerings I focused on the offering that got the best results and only targeted online businesses that earned revenues via display advertising.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

When I started MonetizeMore, my goal was to increase revenues measurably for businesses via digital means. This could have been done via SEO, social media management, UI/UX, CRO, ad optimization and/or many other ways.

I improved my skills for each and then decided to use my old employer as a case study.

I looked at their revenues and realized the majority of them come from Google AdSense. Google had a monopoly over their ad inventory.

Then it hit me, all I have to do is increase the demand for their ad inventory and the price for each ad impression would go up based on simple economics (Supply stays the same and demand goes up). When this is applied to 100,000,000s of ad impressions per month, that can lead to huge ad revenue increases.

For example, with AdSense as the only bidder, they could bid whatever they want. Let’s just say their average RPM (Revenue per thousand ad impressions) bid is $0.50. After I came in and optimized their ad inventory auction by adding new bidders, they had a much more competitive auction. For one ad impression, AdSense could have bid $0.50 but Facebook could have bid $0.40, OpenX $0.6 and Rubicon $0.70. If they continued to run just AdSense, they wouldn’t have access to those higher bids per ad impression. In this example, the publisher would get a $0.20 higher bid. If the same bid lift happened for 100,000,000 ad impressions in a month, their revenues would grow from $50,000 to $70,000.

This was a pain point my old employer had, that they didn’t realize at the time. I offered them a no-risk contract where I would only charge a percentage of the increased ad revenues. They willfully accepted and I was able to pioneer the model that we still use today. Over many months of ad optimization, I was able to increase their ad revenues by millions!

Describe the process of launching the business.

The business has been bootstrapped since day one. It was just me starting the business so my greatest startup costs were my personal costs since my time was the greatest input. I created and launched the first version of MonetizeMore on Wordpress.

Become an expert in a niche with market gaps. Approach problems from a completely different angle. Make a rich person richer and then take your cut.

The first client was a huge success and a great initial testimonial, however, getting that second client was quite tricky. My offer to dramatically increase their ad revenues was met with skepticism. Many thought it could have been a fluke. After a couple years, PennySaverUSA.com took a risk on me.

I had a chance to prove out my business model on a new site in a different country with different traffic. Thankfully, I was able to prove out the business model again in a big way by increasing their RPMs by over 300%. They were very happy and this second testimonial was a catalyst to attaining new premium publisher clients.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Content marketing and paid content are huge for a B2B business like MonetizeMore.

We have spent a lot of resources on content marketing for over 9 years and we are a leader in our industry because of it. MonetizeMore gets 91% of all leads from content marketing efforts. This includes 2 blog posts per week. Overall, MonetizeMore.com drives about 31,000 sessions and 41,000 page views per month within a very niche industry and very little paid traffic (Less than 7% of traffic).

how-i-disrupted-the-ad-industry-and-grew-my-business-to-20m-year

We get hundreds of organic leads every month while our competitors have to rely on AdWords and spam email campaigns to get new leads. As a result, our lead quality is much higher and has greater intent.

Below are the top 3 marketing tactics that have worked well for us:

Answer Questions

We answer ad optimization related questions on Google Product Forums, Quora, Twitter and Reddit. We have found that this enables positive interactivity with sub-communities, establishes us as authorities and drives many leads.

how-i-disrupted-the-ad-industry-and-grew-my-business-to-20m-year

how-i-disrupted-the-ad-industry-and-grew-my-business-to-20m-year

how-i-disrupted-the-ad-industry-and-grew-my-business-to-20m-year

Round-up Posts

A well-executed round-up post based on trending topics in our industry has gotten a lot of views, shares and attention from the most influential players. The extra time it takes to create a round-up post has provided a much greater return versus normal blog posts.

how-i-disrupted-the-ad-industry-and-grew-my-business-to-20m-year

Below are a few successful round-up posts we created:

Strategic Partnerships

We have partnered with several other companies that have complimentary offerings. As a result, we refer each other clients. We have received our highest quality leads via this channel. For example, we have partnered with the below complimentary offerings:

WPEngine: We setup a strategic partnership where we refer publishers to eachother with no cash exchanged.

Google: We setup a strategic partnership to get exclusive access to some of their products and MonetizeMore onboards publishers to use their products which grows their market share.

OnCallAdOps: We agreed to send over publishers that would like to hire a consultant to setup their GAM account and they agreed to send over publishers that are interested in ad optimization tech and services.

Press

PR has also been a really successful marketing channel. Below are the top 3 sources of our PR success:

HARO: An incredible tool to reach reporters that are interested in writing about your business or expertise.

Networking: Meet these reporters in-person, offer to get on calls with them to disclose all the latest trends in your industry and share and comment on their articles to keep top of mind.

Guest Articles: Send proposals for them to publish your guest article that is relevant to their audience, is not self-promotional and is about an interesting trending topic from a unique perspective.

Below are some great PR opportunities that the above tactics have produced on:

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

We hit $20M Gross Revenues as of last year. We were also able to hit yet another double digit growth year. We have been profitable since month 5 of the business. Our monthly traffic sees over 30k users per month with a social media following over 10k.

Our greatest revenue driver is our Premium Publisher offering because it focuses on the largest publishers (Minimum 20M page views per month). It drives the majority of our revenues. However, we will be launching the PubGuru platform in Q2 2019. We fully expect it to be a major revenue driver and eventually eclipse the Premium Publisher revenues.

Our goal is to establish PubGuru as the Hootsuite of ad tech where it would be the no brainer tool for any publisher that wants to run an ad ops team in-house. If we are successful, we would be able to hit our long-term goal of $100M Annual Gross Revenues.

Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

If I could go back in time, I would advise my younger self to hire our current CTO two years earlier. Our current CTO has done an incredible job resurrecting our technology stack and putting the technology in a position to achieve high levels of innovation.

If I were to hire our current CTO two years earlier, I would have been able to avoid a horrible business partnership and a Google account ban that costed over $2M. More importantly though, MonetizeMore would be two years ahead of where it is today. Our current CTO and CPO have done an incredible job catching up our technology to get MonetizeMore to be amongst the trailblazers in the industry. However, I could only imagine the lead MonetizeMore would have if we brought our CTO onboard two years earlier.

The one habit that I can devote my success to is Kaizen. This is the ideology coined by Toyota that believes that everything can be improved and deserves to be improved. Every professional and entrepreneur should adopt the ideology of Kaizen to achieve incredible success.

With the devotion to improve a little bit every single day, one can accumulate incredible improvement and success. This is even more powerful if the entrepreneur is able to establish this ideology within the culture of their company. This is what we've been able to do at MonetizeMore and is a big reason for our success.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Tools are key to keep the business running smoothly especially in a 100% remote business. Below are some of our favorite tools that we have been dependent on:

Google Drive

Our team collaborates with Google Docs, Sheets, Slides and Forms on a daily basis. In fact, our most important KPIs are automatically tracked via a giant Google sheet that imports a lot of important data automatically.

Active Campaign

Great CRM software for marketing automation and enhancing the relationship with new and current leads. The automation capability is quite strong in terms of saving time categorizing email lists and sending out emails. AC also connects with many other tools to automate data transfer.

Doodle

This meeting time tracker allows team leads to suggest many times for several team members to have a remote meeting. It converts all the time zones and has an intuitive UI that makes it easy to choose the dates and times that everyone has agreed to.

Zapier

This tool has integrated our tools to improve our capability and efficiency across MonetizeMore. Being able to consolidate our data automatically has saved us thousands of man hours and made the whole company more data driven.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

Below are the four most influential resources that we have tapped into over the past 9 years:

TropicalMBA: Dan and Ian are a great team that talk about the opportunities and issues that location independent entrepreneurs have. It's a unique podcast and is high quality. I haven't found a better podcast on the net.

Tim.Blog: It's no secret Tim Ferriss is a great thinker and a magnet for very top notch entrepreneurs to share what made them successful. I've picked up so many tidbits from this blog.

MonetizePros.com: This site never ceases to amaze me by always coming out with fresh and actionable content to better monetize sites. We have picked up some great tidbits for ad optimization but it offers actionable guides for eCommerce, Amazon FBA, Youtube and so much more. This site will make you rich!

Never Split the Difference: This has been a game changer book that has taught me how to be a better negotiator, leader, communicator and empathize with team members, partners and third parties. It has been so good, we initiated an internal MonetizeMore seminar just about the teachings of this book. As a result, internal communication has improved, our sales performance has spiked and customer empathy has grown. These are all key improvements that have led to MonetizeMore’s growth in 2018. I even use some of the communication strategies in my personal relationships. I never realized how important and powerful empathetic communication can be.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Before starting a business, it is key to come up a with a problem to solve. It is key to solve a painful problem. To validate that the problem is a pain point, interview at least 25 prototype customers that might experience this problem and ask how painful the problem is out of 10. If your average answer is between 8 - 10 then you have an opportunity. From there you need to create a business plan detailing how you will solve their problem and your strategies and tactics to reach this audience.

To build a successful business someone must find that fire from within. For me, it came from the drive to be able to engineer my perfect lifestyle. I worked to no end to make the business successful. Endeavoring entrepreneurs should also commit to:

  • Becoming an expert in a niche with market gaps
  • Approach problems from a completely different angle
  • "Make a rich person richer and then take your cut"

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

We are hiring for many positions on our Careers Page. The most recent positions we’re hiring for are:

UI/UX Designer: Responsible for creating functional designs for an innovative ad tech SAAS solution and taking actionable feedback from the target audience.

Web Developer: Developing features or product using: JavaScript, Python/Flask, PostgreSQL, Linux, Docker, Git, Cloud Services and any other new technologies.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!

-  
Kean Graham,   Founder of MonetizeMore

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