This interview is with Jeff & Ryan Gardner from AdCafe. These guys are some of the top advertising brokers in Utah. They’re also identical twins! Some key points of the interview: Hear from some of the top advertising brokers in the industry. Learn how they get traffic that generates 20,000+ sales per month. Find out how you can drive more traffic to your site.
Please note: Since this interview was published, the company name has been changed to Bigpayout.com.
Full Interview Audio and Transcript
Hobbies and Interests: 4 Wheeling, Snowboarding, Cars, Sports.
Favourite Sports Teams: Utah Jazz and BYU Cougar Football.
Favourite Books: How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnegie.
Favourite Entrepreneurs: Parents.
Company Website: http://www.adcafe.com
Adrian Bye: Today I’ve got the brokering twins, Jeff and Ryan Gardner. Guys, can you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?
Jeff Gardner: Yeah. We’re Jeff and Ryan Gardner. We’re twins, we think alike, and since there are two of us to go around, we’d like to think we get twice as much done. We basically broker products and services for people online. We work for some big companies and for some not so big companies making up several accounts, from weight loss to business opportunities.
We do work for a company called Prosper that has roughly about 500 employees right now. With our online lead generation we help them do anywhere from a million to 1.4 million a week in sales on their call center floor and they’ve done some terrific things over the years. In 2005 they were nominated as entrepreneurs of the year and we would like to think that we had some help in that.
Adrian Bye: Any other major achievements that you’re doing at the moment?
Ryan Gardner: Yeah. We generate a lot of weight loss and other business opportunity. We specialize in free plus shipping offers and trial offers. We know how to generate quality leads and also can deliver the quantity people are looking for as well.
Adrian Bye: So, tell us a little bit about your brokering. Most brokers start a CPA network or a lead generation company or they’re independent and become fairly closely tied with some advertisers. But your case is fairly unusual in that Prosper has become fairly large and you guys have been working either now or in the past with them full time. Why did you decide to do this rather than being out on your own?
Jeff Gardner: Well, we were out on our own in the beginning. We used to be on a sales floor like Prosper’s and were calling on leads that were generated by other people. Ryan figured out the lead generation side of it with Jeremy and came back up north here in northern Utah and we started a company together. We brokered leads for Brady Whittingham, Jeremy Johnson, and lots of different offers.
I’d known Ethan Willis and Randy Garn from a couple of different things in the past and met him in a restaurant and he asked what I was doing. Once I told him he says, “Why don’t you come talk?” So we got together and they gave us a pretty good proposal to work in-house and still allow us to do some stuff on the side. They brought us onboard and we came in-house and made an exclusive arrangement to generate business opportunities just for them.
Adrian Bye: But what made you decide to move from being out on your own to working with Prosper?
Ryan Gardner: We knew the volume that can be produced if we generated so many leads for that sales floor and if we participate a little bit in the backend rev.
Adrian Bye: So the deal was you bring in enough quality leads, then they’ll give you a little bit extra on the backend. Because you’re in-house there’s more trust there and then you’re more focused on their stuff; was that kind of how it evolved?
Jeff Gardner: That’s exactly how it evolved. We wanted to participate in the upside but be a little more patient in the beginning and it worked out very, very well. And also we were able to keep doing our own stuff, which is to broker deals other than biz ops. So the biz ops were exclusive to Prosper, everything else we were still able to do on the side.
Our side stuff wasn’t very big at the time. We cooled it down and focused our efforts on Prosper’s to get it built and going. But, a couple of years ago, Ryan and I decided we wanted to take our side business and put a little more effort into it. The Prosper boys were concerned because they didn’t want us to neglect their stuff. They asked to buy into our company.
Adrian Bye: And so you’re in the Prosper offices but you’re also independent again, is that correct?
Jeff Gardner: Right. After a couple of years we started generating some good revenue to the point where Ryan and I owned the business again. We call our business Advantage Multi Marketing and focus on quality. We generate a couple of thousand sales a week on each of the products we market and take only a handful–maybe five or six good performing offers.
Adrian Bye: So when you say quality, I mean what does quality mean? I mean a sale is a sale.
Ryan Gardner: Yes, we focus on e-mail or search. We don’t do incentive type sales because they don’t perform as well on the backend. We’d rather sacrifice quantity over quality. We always get the quality first, that’s why people like to work with us. There’s a lot of recurring billing offers out there, free plus shipping or free trial offers. They want to make sure people stay on and what its better to deliver them good, quality traffic. Plus, they become a client of ours for a long period of time. We have three or four people that have been with us for about a year and a half to two years.
Adrian Bye: So that actually leads into a good topic. Let’s say you’ve taken on a client who discovers where you generate traffic from. What’s to stop that client from working around you and cutting out your commission?
Ryan Gardner: Essentially, we help each one of our clients produce a great performing offer. We help them tweak their offer to make it better or make it convert better. In turn it actually works better for them, because our publishers are happy and want to keep producing leads and sales for them.
Adrian Bye: So that gives the advertiser incentive to stay with you because you can help them. You give them some optimization techniques and they say, “Hey, there’s a lot of money out there and we expect to work with people that are fair.”
Ryan Gardner: Absolutely. We take their offers and we’re online all day, everyday. We know what’s working and can help them implement some of those things into their own offers.
Adrian Bye: So you talk about fair percentage, what are some typical numbers you guys take and what would be too much?
Ryan Gardner: Normally we take right around 10 percent and then we also try and monetize other things to help us generate some extra revenue on the backend. But for the most part we try to keep it simple and take minimal margins to help the offer gain more quantity. Actually, we try to do whatever it takes to make an offer work for our clients and sometimes may take less.
Adrian Bye: Why are you brokering rather than just being an advertiser yourself?
Ryan Gardner: Well, we’ve dabbled with that thought for quite some but we just don’t want the headache. We believe in doing what you’re good at and we believe there’s plenty to go around. If we’re good at brokering let’s do that; let’s not try to figure out, let’s say the e-mail side.
Adrian Bye: Let’s say you’ve been working with a client or just doing brokering, what assets do you end up with at the end of the day?
Ryan Gardner: As an asset I guess it builds value knowing when we go to a publisher and say, “Hey, run this offer,” 90 percent of the time those offers perform really well. We stick to like Jeff said five or six offers we know perform really well. We don’t have the whole list of 300.
Adrian Bye: So how does someone work with you guys? Every advertiser wants traffic, how do you decide who to work with and how does that start?
Jeff Gardner: Most of our clients come through word-of-mouth. Then, we take a look at their site and give them any feedback about how to make the site better. If they’ve got a great site already we test it out and if it performs well we run with it. But, if it doesn’t perform well we go back, make a few tweaks, and if it starts to perform well, we continue to run it.
Adrian Bye: So anyone can come to you and you’ll run a test for them?
Ryan Gardner: Yeah, pretty much. We’re going to take a quick look at it and see if it’s something we want to deal with. But if there is an offer that looks like it would do well, and it’s something new, something fresh, we’ll take it and do a test on it. If it performs we can drive a lot of volume.
Adrian Bye: Who are typical publishers you work with?
Jeff Gardner: Ad Tech is where we find a lot of our people that we work with.
Adrian Bye: Let’s say someone brings an offer to you as an advertiser, then you’re going to drive a bunch of volume by buying media, is that right?
Ryan Gardner: Yeah, all of it’s done by brokering, so all of it’s done by media buying for them. We push the offer. I give it to my media buyers and my media buyers get the offer out to the different publishers.
Adrian Bye: Any other channels that you work with?
Ryan Gardner: We do a little bit of call center stuff where we try to help our publishers. We refer them to our different buddies, for instance in the Philippines, where they can call on the partials that are collected to generate extra sales for them.
Adrian Bye: So how can someone best leverage working with a broker? Let’s say an advertiser comes to you, what’s the best way to make sure that everyone comes out well?
Ryan Gardner: I think it’s just a matter of setting it up right in the beginning. Making sure the broker has the right tools to make the campaign successful. They need to make sure they have an offer that converts and understand what’s expected in the relationship. If we drive sales for them they need to pay us and we can both work together on that, so.
Adrian Bye: So do you guys operate as partners or co-CEOs?
Jeff Gardner: Ryan heads up the Advantage Multi Marketing and I pretty much heads up the Prosper Learning side of things. We’re aggressive at getting things done
Adrian Bye: Another question about working with Prosper–is the deal you made with them all just based around backend sales or did you actually end up with any equity in the company?
Jeff Gardner: No, it was all based off the revenue generated on the backend sales. So essentially, with our Advantage MM Company, we look at this as just another account. We’re generating leads, they’re helping us pay for the marketing of those leads and we both share in the backend revenue.
Adrian Bye: So, your equity is the relationships in the business, you don’t end up with company equity or something that can actually get sold?
Ryan Gardner: Compared to Advantage MM we do. We try to build value, whether that’s bringing in the data or bringing in different sources of income. Brokering companies have value. They have relationships; they know what the advertiser wants, and what the publisher wants. And there have been several companies that are just broker companies that have sold out and they’ve made quite a bit of money because of their ability to do that.
Adrian Bye: Do you ever do any offline brokering? I mean if an advertiser is building a list that could be monetized through offline direct mail and other stuff do you do that stuff as well?
Ryan Gardner: Absolutely. We do whatever it takes to help monetize the data coming in or monetize the traffic coming to the site. That’s what it’s really going to come down to, if we can help everybody make more money then it’s even a better win/win.
Adrian Bye: So what would be typical ways you work with an advertiser?
Ryan Gardner: There are a lot of different ways. Like we mentioned earlier, we’ve hooked almost every one of our guys that collect, a partial is what they call it, off the initial landing page before it hits to a credit card, to generate more sales through a call center over in the Philippines.
Adrian Bye: How much extra revenue does that bring?
Ryan Gardner: They can up sell anywhere from 10 to 20 percent extra and it’s a lot cheaper for them as well.
Adrian Bye: How can someone make sure that they’re not being ripped off by a broker, i.e., over charged, not getting good quality traffic, all of the things that can go wrong?
Jeff Gardner: Well it’s their responsibility as an advertiser, to know. They’re going to have to make sure that the traffic they’re driving is going to convert. I would always suggest an advertiser to ramp up, not just all of the sudden go out of the gates producing 2,000 orders a week.
Ryan Gardner: To make sure an advertiser doesn’t get ripped off by a broker, they’ve got to use the right people; people who have had experience and maybe even ask around and see what kind of reputation they have. That’s why we only want to deal with reputable companies you know.
Adrian Bye: To that end, you guys are in the middle. Its advertisers who run into problems and aren’t able to meet cash flow and that kind of stuff. I mean how do you manage not getting squeezed like that?
Ryan Gardner: Just by making sure we get the payments. If we start doing a certain amount of volume we ask for payments weekly. If we produce leads Monday through Sunday we want to get paid by the following Friday so it doesn’t leave us out too long.
Jeff Gardner: Each offer is paying us anywhere from $30 to $40 so we’re talking a lot of money.
Adrian Bye: Do you guys have any experience or any thoughts on how people can best monetize international?
Jeff Gardner: Well I think we’re still trying to figure that out as well. Some of our offers don’t accept international traffic but like our business opportunity offers, we always try to get people to run like traffic from UK, Canada, Australia, anywhere that speaks really English.
Adrian Bye: Anything that you guys would like to talk about, some interesting things that you’re working on and all the things that are going on that you see in the industry?
Jeff Gardner: We like to try and be ahead of the curve obviously and right now there’s a big issue with fraud. We have a pretty good grasp on that. If an advertiser chooses the wrong broker, the broker will deliver him a lot of fraudulent traffic.
Adrian Bye: And he’ll find out two months later.
Jeff Gardner: Yeah, two or three months down the road they’re having merchant account problems and the account is no longer there.
Adrian Bye: Why isn’t there some sort of like industry organization or something where everybody centrally provides the names of fraudulent affiliates so they all get blocked?
Jeff Gardner: That’s exactly what I’ve been doing. Putting together a list of banned partners, banned affiliates, and sending it to all the networks so they know not to allow these individual to sign up on their network or to run any of my offers.
Adrian Bye: Thank you both for making time for the interview, it’s been very, very interesting.
Jeff Gardner: All right, thanks for your time.
Ryan Gardner: Thanks, Adrian.