LeadsCon 2019 Wrap Up

Well, it’s over. Four days in Las Vegas finds me reflective and proud. And, at least for the first few days upon returning, tired. Like, the kind of tired where you fall asleep at dinner. Or while helping with homework. Super, super tired. Given this, I waited a few days to draft my wrap up post for this event.

I’ve been attending LeadsCon for 10 years, so the Las Vegas event is equal parts reunion, brand-building, and business development for our clients and ourselves. This year, we saw more of that trend, with some adjustments here and there. Read on for a quick recap.

Partnership Marketing Workshop
We were fortunate to be chosen by LeadsCon and AccessIntelligence to lead a Partnership Marketing Workshop on Monday (prior to LeadsCon’s official kickoff). This event, our third in a row, has become an important anchor for our business. We look forward to it every year and commit significant (to us, anyway) resources to making it happen. This year, I was very proud of the effort. Among the high points, I’d include the following:

  1. This was our largest audience, to date. In fact, we filled the room.
  2. In addition to the audience size, we attracted the most diverse group we’ve ever had, with a particularly strong showing from brands and channel sale organizations. (This is very important to me, as without these folks actively engaged, things can get salesy, fast.)
  3. Our speakers did an amazing job keeping the audience engaged, and also staying real. In fact, our first session, led by Damon DeCrescenzo and Jason Kaplan from the Credit Pros, was as contentious and frictional as any I’ve seen. That’s what we aimed for!

There’s plenty more I could say about this event, but the above struck me the most.

Balling on a Budget
As a bootstrapped startup in an industry full of well-funded and established firms, we’ve got to be thoughtful about how we make a splash in Las Vegas. This year, we held a series of cocktail parties at our suites in the hotel. These were super fun, and they didn’t break the bank. For three consecutive nights, we hosted our clients, friends and partners. The venue was perfect, and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. And, we got to throw a party….every night!

Meetings off the Floor
While we were each active at the show and in the sessions, we used these same spaces as private meeting rooms, which worked out really well. These folks are always going hard, but I saw sixth gear from the team in Vegas. I think we took Anna to the point of critical illness, but at last check, she’s still among us and returning to normal. As is often the case, I’m blown away by the team’s effort in Vegas.

Innovation Seems to be Slowing
This is the only critical comment I’ll make, and I promise it’s constructive. When I walked the floor of the exhibition hall, it felt as if there are a large contingent of companies fitting into three buckets: networks, call centers, and software. The networks are buying and selling media, typically in a very transactional way. The call centers seemed hard pressed to differentiate. And the software companies appear to be locked in competition with one another on a product level.

None of the above is surprising, but it’s also a little disconcerting. I think there’s a lot of innovation left in this space, but sometimes, you couldn’t get a sense for that. I hope that next year, we see more innovation and disruption. It will keep the space vibrant, ya know?

That’s it from me. What an awesome week in Vegas!

Strategic Partnership Workshop – Full Speaker and Format Announcement!

Strategic Partnership Workshop – Full Speaker and Format Announcement!

LeadsCon is less than two months away. Let that settle in. I’m guessing most of you still have holiday decorations up, and the biggest event in performance marketing is, like, right around the corner? Excited? Us, too.

We’re thrilled, actually, because we’ll be hosting a Strategic Partnership Workshop for the third consecutive year. This event, in particular, has become the cornerstone of our first quarter – we’re expecting a record turnout.

At this point, it feels timely to share some exciting and important details about the event. Our agenda and speaker roster are both finalized, and I’m confident that this year’s workshop will offer previous attendees and first-timers huge value. Attendees won’t just hear from a talented and diverse group of thought leaders; they will also be treated to an entirely unique format that we believe will help involve the entire audience in the discussion.

Here’s the full agenda:

Session 1: Unit Economic Spotlight: Achieving Better Commercial Outcomes Through Partnership

Our first session is meant to be a live wire. (In other words, we want it to get weird!) This will be a candid discussion about the true value of strategic partnerships in a direct response business. Many have experienced, first hand, the dissent that often exists between the business development and finance/operational leaders. We’re bringing this discussion to center stage, pairing two business partners who’ve grappled with the topic for years. Join Damon Decrescenzo and Jason Kaplan from The Credit Pros for a very real discussion on the commercial justifications of forming strategic partnerships.

Session 2: Forming, Developing and Executing a Partnership Strategy

We have three incredible panelists lined up to address critical phases to any successful partnership platform. But, in this setting, our panelists aren’t the stars – the audience is. The first half of this session will feature targeted breakout sessions, which will be headed up by our panelists. Will Curry from PureTalk Wireless will lead the group focusing on program strategy; Vince Lewis from Quicken’s Core Digital Media will cover prospecting, and Chrissy Ingalls from LightStream (SunTrust Bank’s innovative consumer lending business) will facilitate the discussion around program execution. These folks each boast tremendous backgrounds; merging this expertise with the audience’s perspective will, I think, be really cool.

Session 3: Group Mentality

Over the 10+ years since the first LeadsCon was held, our community has grown ever-more transactional. Publishers, networks and lead sellers all depend on paid media to create valuable inventory, while brands enjoy the convenience of per-lead (or, action) pricing formats. To maximize yield, competitive bidding formats have taken hold – pitting eager advertisers against one another and testing the limits of profitability.

But, what if brands and publishers could access customer populations through less competitive channels? Hundreds of millions of Americans each year join membership groups and associations, or participate in similar, brand-sponsored loyalty programs. In each case, the groups actively represent their members’ interests, often offering specialized products and services to their constituency. To better understand this ecosystem, and the dynamic relationship between affinity organizations and their brand partners, we’ve recruited two tremendously talented leaders from this ecosystem. Join Rita DiPalma from Augeo Affinity Marketing and Jason Nierman, who helped build TrueCar’s partnership program before spearheading Rollick Outdoor’s innovative partnership platform.

As you can tell from the above descriptions, we take this event very seriously. It’s critical that our audience walk away with real value from each of our sessions. If you’ve attended one of these events in the past, you’ll hopefully join us again. If you’ve not participated previously, please know how excited we’ll be to welcome you to this one. Here are the event location and time details:

Strategic Partnership Workshop

Monday, March 4
Mirage Hotel and Convention Center
Grand Ballroom D and E
8 AM – 12 PM

Registration Link: https://www.eiseverywhere.com/ereg/index.php?eventid=319804&
Discount Code: SPKR100 ($100 off current event pricing)

Why Write? A blog post about blogging.

I love to write. I try to spend a couple hours each week composing something with a goal of sharing my work. While I’m certainly not alone, I’m learning this is becoming an increasingly rare practice.

For example, not everyone on our team enjoys – or feels comfortable – writing. During our Q4 retreat (which happened a couple weeks ago), I asked a few of our folks what holds them back from writing more. “I’m not good at writing” was one reply (incorrect, by the way; this person writes beautifully). Others said they’re too busy. Some pointed to fear of public criticism, and not wanting to be vulnerable to that. The most common response, though, was that folks don’t know what to write about or what to say.

The discussion stuck with me. So, as I often do when a topic provokes extended curiosity, I thought I’d write about it.

I’ll start with why I write

I write, mostly, because I love to write. It makes me happy. I enjoy the process – from the planning and outlining to the refinement. It’s fun. And, admittedly, I get a little rush from the feedback that comes from posting something that people enjoy reading. I also like to try out new phrasing and messaging. I play with cadence and flow. I poke and I prod, so to speak.

For me, it started early – like, 5th or 6th grade. I was a wiry, goofy kid with ADD, but when I would read aloud the things I wrote in class, the other kids laughed with me (as opposed to ‘at’ me). That felt good, so I ran with it. Later, I developed an incredible relationship with Gregg Schwipps, who was my writing professor at DePauw. He taught me the value of authentic language and helped me understand how impactful a well-told story can be. That experience, like much of my time at the school, had a major impact on me. Since leaving college, and certainly since becoming an entrepreneur, I’ve always tried to keep some time in my schedule blocked off for writing.

Why writing is only sort of good for business

These days, I write a lot about our business. I do think it helps, but mostly in vaguely-attributable ways (at best). Others may point to revenue growth which is clearly linked to content, but for us, that’s not the goal. I don’t write to drum up business. It’s not that I don’t want more business – it’s just that I think content that aims to sell isn’t genuine. And, I think salesy writing that’s disguised as something else is obnoxious. I’m not saying that thoughtful content doesn’t sometimes lead to more business; I just don’t write with that as the goal. I’ve heard from several folks that something I’ve written has helped them to move forward. I’ve also been told that a blog post I wrote actually inspired someone not to become a client. Clearly, this wasn’t my goal, either!

Many say writing can be good for search engine optimization, but I’ve actually been told that mine isn’t. It’s well-documented that if you can assemble the right words in the right places in such a way that google likes it, this can be valuable. But, since this violates my first rule (don’t write just to drum up business), I think that kind of writing is annoying, too. Our former head of marketing, who I adore, once told me that my writing wasn’t ‘keyword rich’ enough. I don’t know the word for the sound your mouth makes when you hold your lips together and force air out, but that’s how I responded to him. (For an A/V example, Oklahoma State University’s football coach, Mike Gundy, famously made this noise during a press conference recently – it’s absolutely worth the distraction.)

Really, I think writing is good for business mostly because it helps you develop your business’s voice. It helps put a persona behind the brand. Writing allows you to assert a point of view. It lets your audience get to know your ‘vibe,’ or way of being. And it can help establish, I suppose, some authority on topics that matter to you or your audience. It helps you develop an answer to the question: ‘who are those people?’

Why non-marketing types should write, too

This touches back on my motivation for writing this post. I find it remarkable how few people outside of the marketing discipline publish content. Like, if you don’t have an MBA or the words ‘marketing’ or ‘content’ in your title, you shouldn’t write. I don’t get it.

I think business development and sales people, in particular, should write all the time. Think about this. You communicate for a living. Your job is to help people understand why they should work with you or buy your product. Unless you’re somehow pulling this off without the help of language, why wouldn’t you want to constantly improve your own use of words? When you go through the process of writing and posting something, you become more expert in concisely communicating your message. When it’s not just right, you can tweak in a way that you can’t do with spoken communication. Later, you can use those refinements in live action. Writing also helps you build your personal brand. It helps you chip away at the due diligence your audience is doing when you’re not in the room or on the phone. It establishes authority and authorship. It makes everything you say hold more meaning, and it helps you be seen as less subjective.

Some will say sales, marketing and business development are all so interconnected that this is last assertion is obvious. OK. We can debate that another time, but for now, let’s look at other disciplines. I love it when technical professionals write – especially when their work helps me make business sense of technical things. (For a brilliant technical view across a range of business concepts, I think HubSpot’s CTO and Co Founder, Dharmesh Shah is hard to beat.) Another example is finance and venture capital. While we’ve never gone the route of approaching investors, Los Angeles-based VC Mark Suster’s blog is some of my absolute favorite reading. And when I want to learn from content that can benefit my personal life, I often still prefer for those insights to make an impact on my business. I think Dr. Brene Brown – a research professor by trade – has absolutely made me better at home and at work.

Let’s land this plane.

I could go on and on. But, you’ll stop reading (if you haven’t, already). My point? You don’t have to be an expert in an area to have an impact within it. Sometimes, as noted above, content that aims to address one topic can help both the writer and the reader develop new thinking in other areas. In other words, don’t overthink it when it comes to putting your thoughts out there. Instead, open up. Write about stuff. Tweak it; play around with it. Then, share it. Even if you’re bashful about the value of your own ideas, you’ll benefit from the process. And, someone out there might just benefit from it, too.

Sharpen your pencil and share your ideas. You’ll be glad you did it.



From M/A to Partnerships: Understanding the important relationship between Mortgage Firms and Insurance Providers

A couple weeks ago, as thousands of professionals from within the mortgage and insurance categories flooded Las Vegas (for InsureTech Connect) and Boston (for LeadsCon’s Connect to Convert), a bombshell fell on the two industries which will surely impact business for years to come in each category. The news, in case you missed it, was the announcement of LendingTree’s (TREE) intention to purchase Seattle-based insurance lead seller QuoteWizard for north of $300 Million. (You can read the full report, here). On the surface, this deal makes a ton of sense. These two firms have independently done incredibly well in their primary markets; their joining forces should lead to even more impressive dominance in performance marketing space, with coverage in two of the most active and important lead generation industries.

Much of the work our firm does touches these industries – we represent leading players from both the insurance industry and the residential finance (mortgage, home improvement) ecosystem. In fact, we’ve been the driving force in a number of partnership programs between insurance providers and lenders. While we weren’t surprised by the news of the transaction, we do find it both extraordinary and noteworthy. I figured I’d write a little bit about the transaction, and more importantly, the general benefits of a mortgage-insurance partnership strategy.

First, though, some background. I know each of these businesses pretty well. My relationship with LendingTree dates back a number of years – I consider a number of folks on their senior team to be close friends. It’s a business that I respect tremendously. QuoteWizard has been a great partner to a number of the companies I’ve been involved with as well, and while their senior team typically communicates with my partner, Brett (our COO), I’ve come to similarly respect their work. These are good companies, and I’ve got exactly zero doubt that they’ve done something very smart by joining forces.

I’ve also believed for a long time that mortgage lenders and insurers make for very good partners. Dating back to Brett’s and my time at DoublePositive (when we launched the now-mothballed ReadyForMyQuote mobile product), I’ve been thinking about how to profitably align these industries. I’ve seen firsthand the success that USAA has had in helping their Members on both the bank side (which is where their mortgage products live) and the property and casualty business (I’m a Member and I’ve supported that business in the past). Later, at my last ‘real job’ (a national property and casualty insurance agency) we worked hard to partner with residential lenders. In other words, I’m a believer that mortgage customers make good insurance customers, too.

It would seem I’m not alone. This acquisition is certainly big news, but if you read the ‘trades,’ you know that there are a number of businesses out there who are thinking about insuring borrowers. Some are wholly-focused on this; these businesses exist specifically to leverage the relationship that these two industries can and should have. Others see this as a program or a channel – though not a business model. Whether all-in or simply playing at the margins, the list of firms looking to bridge the mortgage application and the insurance policy is growing. (Quick note: We represent some of these businesses, so I face a weird thing, here. I either mention just the ones we work with, share a broader list or just skip naming them, entirely. I’ll go with door number three to avoid any feather ruffling.)

So, why is this happening?
Given the level of activity between the insurance and mortgage industries, one’s mind naturally looks for the motivation behind this. Let’s put the acquisition that inspired this post on the shelf (as the parties involved may have had additional/different motivations than just the synergistic relationship these industries can have). I’ll focus instead on the perspective of a mortgage entity (which could be a direct lender, a broker, or even a loan officer) and the insurance provider (maybe a carrier, an agency or an agent). Specifically, I’ll try to nail down why they’re valuable to one another. To my mind, there are a couple major contributing factors, and then a bunch of secondary benefits. Both are briefly described below:

Major Factors
These industries are either critical or supplemental to one another’s ability to sell. You can’t borrow money for a home that isn’t insured. This means that for a mortgage firm to close a loan – and for a loan officer to get paid – an insurance certificate is required. (Further, RESPA mandates that the lender can’t sell insurance.) For the insurer, the relationship is less necessary than it is beneficial. I mean, who wouldn’t want to work leads who have to buy what you sell?

Secondary Benefits
There are likely dozens of solid justifications for lenders and insurance companies to work together. Some, though, are really simple and important; I’ll stick with these.

Insurance Benefits

Homeowners = better insurance customers.
While insurance carriers rely on dashboards that look like a nuclear submarine control panel, their profitability really comes down to just a few elements: acquisition cost, customer longevity, and products sold per customer frame the basics; loss ratios and claims frequency form the more advanced perspective. Working with homeowners aligns to better than index outcomes in each of these areas: they’re more likely to buy multiple products, less likely to move, and generally display a lesser risk profile than non-owners.

Exclusive leads rock! Cheap, really good ones are even better.
This actually speaks to the above point. Typically, when a mortgage firm refers its customers, it does so to a single, trusted entity. And, often, they do so without charging market rate for a lead. Insurance agents prefer exclusive leads to those they have to share with their competition. And because these leads don’t typically carry the weight of expensive media COGS (costs of goods sold), these programs can mitigate – or even eliminate – upfront acquisition costs.

Lender Benefits

Incremental Revenue.
Lenders have very few opportunities to engage their customers. If they’re successful in funding a mortgage, it’s likely years before they may be approached about a new loan (either purchase, refi or line of credit). Further, as consumers become more and more rate conscious, there’s no guarantee of that repeat business ever happening. Forming a partnership with an insurance company can mean incremental revenue for the lender.

Increased NPS and Loyalty.
Helping customers with things you don’t necessarily sell isn’t just good for revenue; it’s good for referral activity and loyalty. When a lender partners with an insurance company, and that partner delivers great service, it reflects well on the lender. They can expect an improved Net Promoter Score and a greater degree of customer loyalty.

Let’s wrap this up. LendingTree and QuoteWizard makes sense. So do the many business models and programs looking at the relationship between banks and insurers. To me, the more important message is that these programs aren’t just formed by acquisitions and deployed capital. There’s nothing stopping residential lenders and P/C insurers of all sizes from forming partnership programs that can leverage this value. These kinds of engagements help companies grow, but more importantly, they help customers have a better experience.

I hope you like this content. I’ve loved writing it. I think this stuff is fun to think about, but it’s even more fun to execute. I typically don’t use this blog to promote our business, but here I will:

If you’re a lender looking for an incredible insurance partner, we can help.

If you’re an insurance company looking for great lender partners, we can help.

If you have a technology that makes it easier for mortgage applicants to buy insurance, we can help.

Thanks for reading. Peace!

InsureTech Connect Recap

Our team has just returned from InsureTech Connect.

Whoa. What a week. For us, it was an incredible event and very much worth the trip. The content was very solid, and the networking proved to be a tremendous boost to the work we do for our clients. This post will bounce around a bit, as we covered a lot of ground over the five days we spent in Las Vegas. Read on!

It all began for us on Monday with the Strategic Partnership Workshop. Anyone who’s ever put on an event like this knows that very little goes completely as planned – such was the case for us on Monday. While it was a little hard for folks to find us, and then tough to hear us (AV issues), we persevered. And, we were thrilled to have a very engaged audience representing the full spectrum of thought leaders from throughout the insurtech ecosystem. Our speakers did a wonderful job going with the flow and sharing very meaningful insights. I’ve provided a quick review of each session, below:

Our first session was meant to feature Marc Buro from InsuraMatch and Abby Reddy from Quotacy. Well, one out of two ain’t bad – Marc came down with pneumonia and was unable to join us. Instead, Abby was joined by her partner, Jeremy Hallett, and Michael Babikian from Legacy Shield. They absolutely rocked. This discussion covered the importance of strategic partnerships when bringing an innovative and disruptive product to market. While we missed Marc, we were very lucky to have such a flexible group to kick us off.

Next, Daniel Weaver from Updater’s insurance group and Chad Lovell from Cross Country Home Services led a very informative session on the power of leveraging insurance-adjacent partnerships. This was a unique discussion in that it covered both ends of the unit economic equation for insurance marketers – Daniel talked about customer acquisition and Chad covered retention and claims mitigation. Great content from great folks!

We shifted our focus in the second half of the workshop to talk about how partnership-first firms fare in the market from an enterprise value perspective. We featured the stories of two recent acquisitions, with Brian Ocheltree from LeadCloud and Hal Schwartz from Quilt providing a firsthand account of their experience being acquired by larger enterprises. Brian spoke about the acquisition of his firm by National General Insurance Group and Hal told the story of being acquired by Mass Mutual’s Haven Life. For many in the audience, this was a powerfully relevant session – I credit each of these speakers for being extremely open about the process of building a business valuable enough to be acquired by major enterprises. It was a great discussion!

We then gained a different perspective on the investment and M/A process – this time from folks representing the capital side of that ecosystem. Ashish Dudani from Kiwi Tech and Grace Vandecruze from Grace Global Capital did an incredible job sharing their insights on how insurtech ventures can prepare themselves for capital investment and even acquisition. This discussion took an unexpected turn toward another important topic (and one that I couldn’t be more pleased to have discussed): diversity. Grace discussed the importance of having diverse backgrounds and thought perspectives at the board level, while Ashish spoke to this impact on the contributing team. The message, in each case, is very important.

Finally, we were fortunate to have a number of students present from Gamma Iota Sigma, the nation’s largest fraternal organization for the study of insurance-related curriculum in colleges and universities. GIS’s CEO, Noelle Codispoti, spoke about the organization and its mission. She even took a selfie!

With the workshop done, we shifted our focus to the show itself. For this event, we took a divide and conquer approach. While Brett and Anna carried the burden of a jam-packed schedule filled with partner meetings and introductory discussions, I focused on holding fewer meetings with principals of businesses we’ve been evaluating for partnerships with our clients. This proved useful for me – I learned a ton and was able to identify clear next steps on a number of key initiatives. Without the team being on hand to handle a massive number of earlier-stage discussions, I wouldn’t have been able to focus my own discussions in this way. I expect we’ll do more of this in the future.

It wasn’t all business. On Wednesday night we joined the 6,000 or so other attendees for the Salt and Peppa concert! We were all exhausted from four days of working in Vegas, but there was no way I was missing this. It was PACKED. The music was great. The people watching, though, was epic. I’ve never seen so many khaki pants (many pleated!) at a concert – and these people were absolutely jamming. It can’t be easy to get a few thousand insurance professionals to dance for two hours. Salt, Peppa and DJ Spindarella each have my admiration – they looked great and sounded even better!

Thursday was a travel day, but not before we held a client kickoff meeting that morning. I was impressed by the advances that Brett and Anna have made to this process, and really pleased to have completed the week with a kickoff. After this meeting, we made our way home – Anna to Santa Barbara and Brett and I back to Phoenix.

I’ll end with a note of thanks to the folks who lead InsureTech Connect. Jay Weintraub, Caribou Honig, Samarra Jaffe and the rest of the team did such a great job with this event. I’m so thankful to have been there and thrilled with the quality of the meetings we held. I can’t speak highly enough about InsureTech Connect and can’t wait to be there next year.

Join Us At InsureTech Connect in Las Vegas!

Earlier today, we announced that we will be partnering with InsureTech Connect as part of their annual conference in Las Vegas. The four-hour, pre-conference program will be available exclusively to conference attendees, and will feature content contributions from throughout the insurance technology ecosystem and insurance-adjacent industries. For us, this is big news on a couple important fronts. Read on!

First, I’ve known the conference’s founder, Jay Weintraub, since my first month in the performance marketing space. In many ways, his ideas have provided a platform for my career to flourish. Over time, I’ve come to know Jay as a dear friend. Partnering with him – and the entire InsureTech Connect team – is a tremendous honor for us. If you’re reading this, Jay and team, thank you.

Beyond the personal stuff, we’re excited about this because it perfectly aligns with who we are and what we do. We power partnerships for firms across the insurance ecosystem, many of which are highly focused on emerging technologies. Very quickly, InsureTech Connect has become one of the insurance industry’s most innovative and important events, so being chosen to participate is validation of our own momentum.

What Attendees Should Expect:
If you haven’t attended one of our events in the past, it’s important to adjust your expectations, as this is not a typical session. Here’s what you can expect from this workshop:

  1. This will be entirely focused on thought leadership and education – it will absolutely never be about a sales pitch.
  2. All programming and content will come from industry thought leaders – WorkBook6’s job is to recruit great contributors and facilitate fantastic content.
  3. The focus will be entirely on growth-oriented partnerships.
  4. Space is very much limited. We have capacity for roughly 75 attendees (our last event attracted nearly 200). Get there early and be sure to reference the below information in your travel planning.

Where, When and How:
If you’ve already registered for InsureTech Connect, you’re good to go – just be sure to be at the MGM Grand on Monday, October 1 in time for the event. If you haven’t registered, we’ve provided a link with a discount for you, below.

MGM Grand – Rooms 204 & 205
October 1, 2018
1:00pm – 5:00pm

Registration Link: http://www.insuretechconnect.com/workbook6

 

 

The Annual Letter 2018

Hello!

In continuation of a tradition we began at the end of 2017, we recently sent out our annual letter to a number of our clients, partners and old friends. And, as we did last year, we’ve decided to post the letter on our blog, as well. There’s a lot, here – some might argue it’s too much. And while it’s true that I’m particularly open and candid in my remarks, here, there’s nothing in this letter that I’d censor our team from discussing with a client or partner.

I hope you enjoy reading it!

Happy New Year, JT

For the second year, I sat down in early December to compose this Annual Letter. This is a new tradition for a young business, but it has become one of my favorite projects. Taking time to reflect on the year we’re now wrapping up – and being thoughtful about communicating our plans for the coming year – has helped me, tremendously. If you don’t do this or something like it in your own business, I urge you to try it, yourself. In fact, my own inspiration for this comes from a client of ours, whose Chairman and President have been jointly-authoring one for over 30 years. While our mentors lead a much larger company, I immediately saw good reason to do something similar, albeit on a smaller scale. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have enjoyed composing it.

While WorkBook6 began to assemble in 2016, 2018 is actually just our second full commercial year. This is important to note, as I believe our accomplishments over the past twelve months resonate just a touch more meaningfully when one considers the truly nascent maturity of this business. As a parent of young children, it’s hard not to see the parallels between starting and growing a company and raising children. In that sense, I like to think of WorkBook6 as a promising adolescent. We are at once proud of our progress and mindful of how we can continue to grow. Among other milestones, we’ve accomplished the following, this year:

  • Our team has doubled the company’s topline revenue for the second consecutive year. While this may be ‘table stakes’ for a young firm, I can assure you that we don’t take it lightly. Growth like that is the product of the entire team’s tireless work, as well as the trust our clients and partners have invested in us.
  • Our partnership development team has increased performance-based revenues by over 250%, Year-over-Year. This figure, which refers only to those fees that the firm earns through our clients’ execution and performance in new partnerships, is perhaps the single most important indicator of WorkBook6’s health. 2018 was a year of tremendous progress in this area.
  • To meet this growth, we have expanded our team. WorkBook6 is a technology enabled service business. To provide great service, we’ve added great people. This year, we welcomed Anna Lewis, Chris Cox, Justin Guido, Savannah Day and Kyle Casaccio. We also announced the acquisition of Maszi, Inc, which brought Kara Hutcheson into the firm on a full-time basis. Each of these people have made material contributions to our work and to our clients’ growth.
  • We have developed a fully-functional and entirely proprietary technology platform. This system, which we call Perenn.io, is the backbone of the entire operation. Today, our team leverages this technology across many disciplines, including relationship management, sales and marketing automation, task management, business intelligence and even billing. In fact, we believe Perenn.io to be the first many-to-many business and relationship management platform. This, as I will point to later on in this letter, is critical to our business’s identity. We’re particularly thankful to Max Richardson and Savannah Day’s work in this area.
  • Through the hard work of our client success leaders, we have successfully launched and incubated our full-service partner management program. This effort, which involves full scale partner program management, came at the request of an ambitious client, to whom we’re deeply grateful for the trust and resources they’ve committed.
  • We’ve continued to build out our workshop series as a marketing and partnership development mechanism. In 2018, WorkBook6’s workshops at LeadsCon and InsureTech Connect attracted over 300 attendees.

As I think through these accomplishments, I’m left with what might best be described as a ‘dumb grin.’ That’s because throughout the process of building this momentum, it didn’t always feel as if we were making such progress. As I’m sure many entrepreneurs will tell you, it’s hard, sometimes, to see the business’s progress while it’s happening. I spent much of my time this past year thinking through new kinds of challenges and evaluating new types of opportunities. This, I’ve learned, is what growth feels like in this business. I once listened to a keynote given by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah (who co-founded and continue to lead HubSpot). While I recall many useful lessons from that talk, perhaps the assertion that best applies to the year behind us is this: “companies are more likely to die of over-eating than starvation.” I don’t think there are more useful words of advice for a young business that’s lucky enough to be growing, quickly. The message, which speaks to focus and discipline, could have been better applied to some of our work this past year, and will certainly influence what we decide to do – and not to do – in 2019.

In this sense, I’m most excited about all the things we can still refine, here. I think the holidays are a fine time for candor and for vulnerability, so I hope you can find some value in reading about a few of our hard-earned lessons, too. Key learnings for our business this year include the following:

  • We have a sweet spot, and we also have the opposite. In 2018, we sometimes stretched ourselves too far to meet demand that didn’t actually align with what we do best. Good growth takes time, and sometimes it’s actually best to pass up immediately available revenues until more befitting opportunities emerge.
  • Doing what you’re told to do and doing things right aren’t always the same. On a couple occasions, we deferred to external direction despite a ‘gut feeling’ that the strategy might be off-target. We’d have been better off pushing back in those cases, or even walking away.
  • Finally, there may be CEO’s out there who are great at account management, but ours isn’t one of them. In 2018, I learned that the most respectful thing that I can do as a leader is actually to avail our best resources to our clients. And, when it comes to account management, that ain’t me!

These lessons have informed our plans for growth in the new year, which will differ somewhat from the past. As we begin our third full year in business, we’ll do so with a few important themes guiding our strategy. These themes, which have been drafted with input from our entire team, are designed to help us focus on quality growth and revenue diversification while taking a deeper approach to serving our clients. Each of these themes are outlined, below:

  • We will stay independent. Our business has not raised outside capital. We plan to remain on this path, because we feel that having the autonomy to operate this business and apply the learnings we’ve worked so hard for is paramount.
  • We will focus on deepening our relationships with our existing clients, and also limiting the number of new clients we agree to take on. Two consecutive years of rapid growth is fun, but we feel we can continue on this trajectory without taking on business that doesn’t ideally suit us. More importantly, we plan to expand several existing relationships to include our full-service management offering, and we’d like to focus more of everyone’s time on client growth than we do on our own.
  • We will continue to invest in technology and systems. Through continuing our work on Perenn.io, we believe we are building a company that can mature far beyond being perceived as a mere ‘relationship’ business.

As you can see, we’ve got a lot to be thankful for. For both the growth we’ve accomplished and the opportunities to continue improving, we are grateful. In this light, it only makes sense to end this letter with a sincere note of thanks. Because so many people and companies impacted our successes and our lessons this year, we must stay general here. To each of our clients and partners, as well as our friends and families, we offer a very heartfelt and earnest ‘thank you.’ It’s been an incredible year, and we’re brimming with optimism for 2019. We wish each of you a happy, healthy holiday season and a new year filled with accomplishment.

Sincerely,
JT Benton
Founder, CEO
WorkBook6

Strategic Partnership Growth

WorkBook6 Expands National Business Development Team Focusing on Strategic Partnership Growth

New addition brings deep partnership development and engagement experience to the industry’s first full-service strategic partnership growth engine

WorkBook6 today announced the expansion of their national business development team with the addition of Keith Selvin as Director of Partnership Development.

In his new role, Selvin allows WorkBook6 to expand its reach across each of the company’s four service areas: Partnership Development, Marketing Program Management, Media Monetization and Affiliate & Membership Groups. Further, Selvin’s deep partnership and revenue stewardship experience in both business and consumer focused marketplaces will help WorkBook6 continue to drive meaningful results for its broad range of clients.

WorkBook6’s brings proprietary new efficiencies to the marketplace through a flywheel effect, meaning the model outperforms traditional business development efforts through the creation of a growth-oriented community of marketers which self-propel. The addition of Selvin to the team allows for expansion of the model.

“As mainstream customer channels become more competitive, many companies are now looking to add scalable strategic partnerships,” said Selvin. “Brands, media partners, affiliate groups, everyone is looking for out-of-the-box ways to build sustainable revenue streams that deliver maximum impact, and WorkBook6 is on the leading edge of exactly that.”

Prior to joining WorkBook6, Selvin served in senior sales and marketing roles at industry powerhouses Goji and Hubspot.

“I’m proud to have Keith aboard. It’s great validation of what we’re building at WorkBook6,” said JT Benton, founder and CEO. “For many people, enterprises like Hubspot represent the pinnacle of the career path. For us – a young and growing company – to be able to recruit a talent like Keith to the team is really encouraging.”

With demand for WorkBook6’s service area expertise continuing to increase, the addition of Selvin is the first of a new wave of hires WorkBook6 is planning through Q4.

“The expansion of our partnership development team is part of our continued investment in client success and support,” said Benton. “WorkBook6 is all about bringing great business partnerships together. While we continue to build great technology, our people are the foundation. In that sense, we’re all excited to make Keith’s talents available to our clients.”

About WorkBook6

We power partnerships. Uniquely positioned across four primary service areas, WorkBook6 combines strategic leadership with unparalleled experience across all facets of Strategic Partnership Development, Marketing Program Management, Media Monetization and Affinity Organizations & Membership Groups. Combined, WorkBook6 leverages the efforts of a diverse team to power dozens of partnerships throughout a wide range of industry categories, building sustainable revenue for our partners across the customer acquisition ecosystem.

For more information, please visit http://www.workbook6.com

Strategic Partnership Workshop

What is the Leadscon Strategic Partnership Workshop?

Guys! The WorkBook6 team has great news – we’re thrilled to partner with the 2018 Leadscon conference in Las Vegas to present the Strategic Partnership Workshop, March 5, 2018.

So, what is the Leadscon Strategic Partnership Workshop?

It’s no secret: the headwinds impacting customer acquisition are as strong as we’ve ever seen. Brands face stiff competition and must ask hard questions about the customers they acquire via the internet. Publishers and lead sellers feel this pressure as their brand partners look to right-size costs of acquisition and increase Lifetime Value (LTV).

Escalating costs. Fierce competition. Falling LTV’s. Oh, my.

But there is a solution. Forging partnerships can deliver the growth and economic outcomes we’re all seeking more of.

On behalf of the entire WorkBook6 team, we invite you to join our founder and CEO, JT Benton for a workshop built exclusively around this topic. JT will be joined by CEOs, CMOs and Business Development professionals from top US brands, publishers and membership groups. Broken into chapters, this workshop will cover everything one needs to know in order to build more revenue impacting partnerships.

What Will You Learn?

Among other takeaways, participants in this workshop will focus on:

  1. How to identify potential partnership opportunities and make sense of the revenue impact for your company
  2. How to form aligned partnerships with leading firms while staying true to your brand
  3. How to negotiate commercial outcomes that work for every stakeholder – especially the consumer
  4. How to track and manage multiple partnerships – with different conversion paths and commercial structures
  5. When to bring in outside products and services to increase your brand’s loyalty
  6. Which billing formats work best in competitive marketplaces

And much, much more!

Who Should Attend the Leadscon Strategic Partnership Workshop ?

This Leadscon Strategic Partnership Workshop has been designed for senior, revenue-focused leaders – CEO’s, CMO’s, CRO’s, marketing and business development leaders – each will benefit from this content, directly. We’ve also built content that will inform and educate the doers from within the business development and marketing teams. If you touch customer acquisition on the brand side, or media monetization on the publisher side, this workshop is for you. And if you represent a membership group or association, it’s a “can’t miss” curriculum.

Short topical segments will alternate with longer-form hands-on case studies designed to dive deeper into industry-specific challenges, and how best to analyze and overcome in a strategic and sustainable fashion.

Sign up today!

 

Strategic Partnership Development

Advertising Isn’t Dead…Yet

By Keith Selvin

First off, let me just say that I’m a sucker for good advertising. Awesome branded content, highly personalized and well-placed remarketing campaigns, Google Ad results that show me exactly what I was looking for – I love it all. But I think it’s safe to say consumers are getting really good at finding ways to block out advertising. TiVo, streaming, ad blockers, spam filters – the list goes on.

To be fair, marketers have gotten smarter too. Bogus ads and landing pages designed only to flood your inbox with irrelevant and uninteresting offers is largely a thing of the past. It doesn’t take being a digital native anymore to have a finely-tuned “marketing BS-meter”.

Even my 93-year-old Grandma Jean knows not to click on silly, too-good-to-be-true offers anymore (for the most part – yes, Grandma, I promise there’s no such thing as $9/month car insurance).

Look, there’s a reason that $72.5 billion was spent on digital advertising in 2016 (22% more than 2015). It works. The ROI is there. We’re getting smarter at targeting the right customers, in the right place, at the right time. But there’s an inherent problem with this: now everybody wants in.

It’s not just big companies anymore that have figured out effective, programmatic, targeted ad-buying. Pretty much everyone has it figured out now. Over the next 10 years, two critical things will happen:

Marketing costs will continue to rise.

Today, Facebook impressions are cheap – whether it’s pennies or dollars, your industry’s CPM on major platforms is going to increase 10x in as many years. But customer lifetime value isn’t following suit, which means one thing: margin compression.

It’ll be harder to break through the noise.

Consumers now have access to so much information, and so many offers, it’s difficult to know where to look to find the right solution. The key is to give consumers simple and easy ways to solve their problems. If it’s too hard to make a decision, I’m just going to give up and go with the first option presented to me, cutting your company’s entire value-prop off at the knees.

Oversaturation leads to increased supply-side cost, and decreased demand-side attention. That’s a recipe for disaster, and requires a way out. Think 2nd Law of Thermodynamics: high-pressure to low-pressure.

“Okay – so what do I do now?”

Well the good news is, there’s no shortage of new and innovative ways to get in front of potential customers. Direct mail is making a comeback (I know, not new and innovative, but it certainly bucks the digital trend). Content marketing is growing if you’re in the right space. However, we think partnership marketing is the next frontier.

Let me give you an example:

You’re just about ready to buy your first house. There’s six million things on your to-do list. Get the best possible mortgage rate, find a moving company, figure out cable and internet, look into a landscaper, install a home-security system, find homeowner’s insurance, look into getting a new car insurance quote while you’re at it, get an estimate on house painters because “eggshell white just doesn’t match our esthetic, hun”.

What do you do?

It’s daunting. There’s a ton of research that needs to be done. Reviews to read. Questions to ask. Quotes and estimates to receive. Decisions to make.

What if a single trusted company could point you in the right direction? Perhaps, by doing business with one reliable brand, you were then shown several others – with all of your options at your fingertips – no research required? What if you and your business were one of those brands? What do you think your conversion rate would be? Probably better than Google Adwords.

The beauty in partnership marketing isn’t necessarily exclusivity. It’s that it provides a path of least resistance. It cuts through the noise. It positions your brand, or service, or product, as one that can be inherently trusted, since it’s being recommended by a company the consumer is already doing business with.

Want to learn more about partnership marketing? That’s easy – drop me a line at keith@workbook6.com, and let’s talk!

Let’s Connect!