Andrew Warner knows a thing or two about audience building having built a .com business that at one time had the 19th most trafficked website in the world. He’s also the man behind mixergy.com a site that teaches entrepreneurship via interviews with proven tech founders such as those behind companies like Sun Microsystems, Pixar, Groupon & Linkedin. Andrew has access to the highest knowledge base. Listen in as Andrew shares his expertise in this interview.
- Andrew’s #1 tip for James.
- Lead generation model that worked for Andrew.
- Traffic arbitrage?
- Why simple works best.
- Andrew’s inspiration for Mixergy.
- Effective interviewing tips.
Show / Hide Transcript
Hello! You’re tuned in to Episode #12 of traffic jam, this is your host James Reynolds and I have another great show for you today, this episode, as always, we have our popular segment, the one minute traffic news in this week in traffic and we have an interview with a very interesting entrepreneur who built the 19th most trafficked website in the world. It is a bit of a disruptive yet content filled interview right from the start; in fact my guest does not even allow me to complete my introduction before delivering his first traffic tip.
So let’s introduce the guest to you. His name is Andrew Warner and he’s the founder of Mixergy.com, a site where Andrew interviews proven tech founders and teaches entrepreneurship. There are currently 800 interviews with founders of companies like Sun Microsystems, Pixar, Groupon and LinkedIn, as well as various personalities you’ll recognize like Timothy Farris, Seth Godin and Traffic Jam guests like Pat Flynn and Max Teitelbaum, all of these guys featured in mixergy.com. In his 20’s Andrew used credit cards and JCrew refunds to create a $35+ million generating business online. At one point, his website ranked #19 in the world for total traffic. On this interview Andrew is going to share with you how he built an email list with over 20 million subscribers and the strategies that helped his business become a top 20 ranking website in terms of overall traffic. So here’s the interview.
James: Ok, this is episode #12 of Traffic Jam and joining us today is Andrew Warner from mixergy.com. Andrew welcome to the call!
Andrew: Hey, thanks!
James: Good to have you here. Of course on Mixergy you invite on to the show proven tech founders who share their journey through strategies in entrepreneurship to your listeners, I’d like you to sort of follow the same today in Traffic Jam and ask you about your back story, and hopefully we can get some great insights and how you build several tech businesses and hopefully gain some good ideas for traffic generation and audience building as well but the big question …
Andrew: Let me give you… I already interrupted your intro, but I have to tell you why I’m interrupting, because I have to give you my number 1 suggestion to you for more traffic, you’re a good looking guy with a mic that looks really powerful; it communicates a lot of authority. You’ve got guests on here that I can see from their faces are impressive guests, like who’s the latest one? Chris Brogan is the one I’m looking at on the site; you’ve got to do video. People do not understand that those little boxes with the play button, what they mean, they’re worried that they’re going to sit and listen for someone drone on for a while. To give them video, it just for some reason get their attention, gets them to hit the play button, and gets them to hit the fast forward and spend some time if I’m boring, which frankly I sometimes am. They look at my face and they’d say look at Andrew, he’s kind of a weird looking guy, why is he doing video interviews? Look at the mic they’re each using. My suggestion for you is for traffic put video on there. When I put video, people started to really believe that guests were real; started to feel like hey, Seth Godin’s in the room with Andrew, I want to see what Seth has to say.
James: Well I’m a massive advocate video Andrew so I’ll stake that claim now. Some of the most powerful stuff that I am doing in my own business is regular video content, two or three times a week, informative, quality content, and that stuff gets shared; I mean it’s just going everywhere it’s building an audience so you don’t have to preach to me I’m definitely on the same level with you, but perhaps we’ll also consider adding a video element to Traffic Jam in the future.
Andrew: So I was interrupting you, what was I interrupting as you were saying?
James: We can start literally just by rolling back to how you got started; because you’ve got a fantastic entrepreneurial history, you’ve done a lot of stuff in tech. tell us about your first .com business, you started it at the age of 21, tell us how it came about.
Andrew: It happened because I was looking for some way to make money, I was really desperate to give some meaning to my life but I also needed some money so I can survive and thankfully I thought the two are combined; if you have money then it means you are doing something meaningful, if you’re doing something meaningful, then money will follow. That’s the way I was thinking at the time, obviously not exactly true, but getting to the idea, we did online greeting cards as greeting cards are extremely viral. What we did on other people who do greeting cards is when one of our users would send an electronic greeting card to their family members, we would have a check box on the side that said tell me about other greeting cards, and so people would join our mailing list. Then whenever we’d have a greeting card, we’d tell them about it. Another thing that we did that was different and I think we copied it from other people. We did not just wait for mother’s day because we knew that mother’s day is such a powerful day for greeting cards, we did not wait for Valentine’s Day which is also a powerful day, we started inventing our own holidays. It would be like Happy Love Your Hair Day, I don’t know, something ridiculous like that. But if it was a holiday that we made up and we said it’s real, people would send out greeting cards and of course someone sends out a greeting card, or every time they join our mailing list and every time they are spreading the word about our greeting card site to their friends who are receiving those cards.
James: So how are you monetizing this thing? Because if I remember rightly, you actually offer these cards in many cases, if not all the time, actually for free. So what was the monetization model?
Andrew: It was all free, and the monetization was lead generation. So with the banner ad, you might make a buck, maybe if you’re lucky, $20 for a thousand users. If I could do lead generation, I would get paid a buck to $7.50 every time I collected a lead for a client, so I think I can do maybe 50% of the people who sent out a greeting card, I could get them to become leads to one of my clients, so that becomes a minimum of $500 CPM as opposed to $20 if you’re lucky. So more specifically, here‘s what we do and one that people can relate to. After you sent out a greeting card, you’re done. But you already gave me your name. so I would say, Hi Veronica Smith, thanks for sending out the greeting card, by the way did you know that Time Magazine is giving away 5 free issues of their magazine to anyone who wants to try it? Just fill in your information below, and we’ll send it out to you. The fine print says if you don’t cancel you get signed up to get Time Magazine for maybe a year, but it’s Time Magazine so you get to cancel anytime, you don’t have to pay anything, all good. Now she sees that form that asks for contact information, her name is already pre-populated in there, again so she feels alright, half the work is done, all she needs to do is put her address and submit and she’s good to go. That got us $7.50.
James: Wow! So you are basically doing traffic arbitrage right? You’re buying traffic at a low price and selling it…
Andrew: I would not call it traffic arbitrage because traffic arbitrage is we just get traffic and we sell it without doing anything to it. We were definitely buying traffic on a cost per action basis but the action was sending out a greeting card, something is being done. Arbitrage would be if we go to Time Magazine and say give us $7.50 and we would go to another guy and we’d say, hey, James Reynolds we’d give you $4 every time somebody fills out our form and we collect $3.50 that would be the arbitrage, but it was much more sophisticated than that.
James: And did the revenue model remain constant or were there any innovations along the way that led to the profitable model that you’ve just describe?
Andrew: So at first the way that we were going to make money was we would get people to send out greeting cards, and while they’re sending our greeting cards they would have the opportunity to join our mailing list. And when they join our mailing list, we send them content plus ads; you know a joke a day via email and an ad the top of the dough. That’s a good way to make money but it takes a freaking forever so we’d have to make a fraction of a penny through the user every day through the ad until we finally made up our money. That’s a lot of cash, we were paying 10cents to websites every time someone came from their website to our and sent greeting cards. So we were paying 10cents per user, just about, and it would take us 100 days I think, maybe even more, to make the money back. I forget the exact amount of time. So what we’ve decided to do, instead of just making ads that way, why don’t we make a lead gen in to each greeting card? And then we started charging a $1.50 then increase the prices from there. So we were paying 10cents, running $1.50, our net was $1.40, and so we can afford to pay more. We started out with 10cents which amazed people, and then we paid 25cents to websites every time someone from their site sent out a greeting card, that blew people’s minds. Imagine you’ve got to add greeting cards to your site and you’ve made 25cents every time someone sent it out, beautiful!
James: Perfect! Well I think at one point your greeting card website got to 19th most traffic site in the world. To get traffic of that magnitude I am sure you were doing some more nonconventional stuff the average website owner are not doing themselves. What was the best..
Andrew: There was nothing more than what I told you. The first thing is we were paying affiliates to send us traffic, #2 when someone sent out a greeting card we would ask them to join our mailing list. Our mailing list got to be a little more than 20 million people, nothing sophisticated than that.
James: Ok, well there you go there’s the holy grail!
Andrew: It was that simple but frankly, if you look at your life, if you look at the things that work especially well, they are the simple things. The machine was very simple, when the machine gets complicated, when there are a lot of different parts to it, it’s too much that it can break! When it’s simple it can work!
James: Yeah, and I guess the lesson in there is once you’ve got a formula that works it’s just a matter of ramping it up to do as much a bit as you can. Well you eventually sold that business, and if I’m right in saying, that when you sold it, you actually sold it in parts. Net Creations bought your opt in email database, I think I remember you saying, how much was it actually worth to them at that time?
Andrew: You said Net Creations? Yeah it was a good amount of money, they bought not the 20+ million list but a smaller list of people who specifically signed up for offers targeted just to their interest and double opt-in. Net Creations was in to that. I won’t say the amount, I’ll say it’s seven figures and I think I have a copy of it somewhere scanned in my computer because it’s one of the proudest cheques of my life but I won’t say the amount.
James: Well, after a few years of hiatus after you sold that business you then started in I think 2004 Mixergy. What inspired you to take on that project?
Andrew: You mentioned that I was the 19th most visited site, we were constantly in the top 20, nobody knew who we were, and partially because I did not want people to understand what we were doing because then it might compete with us, I also did not see much value in people knowing what we were doing so what’s the point of telling them; that was the issue. And then the other part was, I was just not part of the cool kids, you know, there are cool kids even today in the tech world that everyone knows about, everyone loves, everyone admires. They’re making no money, they’re scraping by, and their business is barely surviving and eventually they’ll fail but they’re cool, so the big blogger s write about them, the big reporters talk about them and the people who are impressive keep referring to them. I wasn’t one of those people and it pissed me off. I thought I know more than all those people did because most of them were just flailing around. So I thought the way for me to not be an obscure nobody in this world is to do something that people care about, to leave a legacy and that’s why I decided I would focus on ideas. Ideas are where I would make my mark on to the world.
James: Well, then in creating Mixergy you’re inspired by Howard Dean’s presidential campaign, I want to tie this in to traffic generation; you’ve watched him create a massive following using local meet ups. What we teach here in Traffic Jam is all about audience building, what were the biggest lessons you learned from modeling Howard Dean’s campaign that you are able to apply to grow Mixergy?
Andrew: You know what, to be honest; it did not work for me, but here’s what I learned and was what I admired even though it did not work. What Howard Dean was doing was he went from being a nobody- a governor of Vermont, most people could not find Vermont on the map, and they’ve never been to Vermont, they don’t see Vermont as a leading state, but still this guy was leading in a democratic primary. Why? Why was this nobody this big? And if you’ve started reading the newspapers this time you’d see that what he was doing was he was using technology and what he was doing specifically meet up technology to get his followers in person. They would meet at bars, at back rooms at bars, they would meet in person and they would encourage each other. They would come up with ideas, they would execute ideas in a small scale and then share those ideas with the main campaign. They would feel involved and so they would put more money in to the campaign. It was all that stuff that was happening because you got them to meet in person, and so I said if I want to create a movement, I should get my people to talk in person too. Here’s where I failed. When I went to a Howard Dean meeting, you knew what the goal was; you know what the mission was. When you went to my meeting, you did not know what the mission was because I was too much of a wuzz to stand up and say here is my mission. And I had not frankly even thought of what my mission would be in clear details because I was too embarrassed to talk about it and because all I ever really wanted was to be somebody. You know and I can’t stand up with everyone all because I want to be somebody. So the mistake that I made was that I should have been clear beyond me, and there was not beyond me. I should have talked about it and I screwed up by not talking about it and when I look to people’s eyes and say hey they don’t really understand what I am about I would have been forced to go home and rethink about the way what this meet up was about because I want to get people together in person, and so that interaction would have challenged me and forced me to think about my message and if I had a clear message then maybe people would have gotten together outside of my small community of Southern California where I happen to live so all I did was I got all these groups together in person, we did not talk about what the message was, we did not talk about what the reason was, they would leave, and then I would have to do it again. Not really the best way to do things. So my big take away from that is that just the power of getting together in person but more than that the importance of standing up and saying what you’re trying to say and what you’re standing up for. And it’s really scary to do that when you’re starting out because what if you fail? Then everyone knows what you’re trying to do, they all know that you failed. It’s scary because you don’t exactly know what you’re doing at first. When you’re starting out, you’d say, I will try to figure it out, I think that the business is but it like… for you for example, you stand up and say, I’m going to help everyone and my mission is to help people who are listening to me become better at getting traffic. It’s kind of scary because now we all know what James is up to and if James fails, we know, so you might be hesitant to say that. It is also scary to say I’m going to do it via audio interviews and that scary because you don’t know if it’s going to be audio interviews or some jerk is going to complain to you that you should be doing a video and maybe you’d post a video and maybe neither one works because people are too tired of consuming content over the course of 20 minutes to an hour and then you decide that checklists are the most effective things. Screw interviews, create checklists. But, the power of saying it publicly is that people can have an argument with you, that they can judge you in person, that you can see what they’re excited about, and I’d say the same thing to anyone who’s listening; that’s one of the big lessons I have, stand up and say what you’re trying to do and it’s okay if later on it doesn’t work out, it’s okay if later on it changes.
James: Well, you’ve got a pretty clear mission now right, with Mixergy. It has evolved in to something very different. I am sure many of the listeners that are tuned in right now, know all about it, but to those that don’t, what has Mixergy become today?
Andrew: Mixergy is the place to learn how to build your business by listening to real entrepreneurs tell you their stories and experiences and what they’ve learned.
James: Cool! Well that sums it up quite nicely, leads very well in to my next question. You’ve of course interviewed some pretty prominent people, the likes of Guy Kawasaki, Tim Farris, Seth Godin, the founders of Groupon Living Social. One of those names that I mentioned, Seth Godin, recently came out on his blog to say that he only accepts interviews by those that have bigger or more influential audiences. Is this a strategy for you?
Andrew: Bigger audiences than him? No. I get why he is doing it. I am disappointed, I did not realize, I don’t know what he exactly said, I did not see that post but one of the nice things about Seth Godin was that he would do – he did an interview with me when I did not have an audience and then when I had an audience, I was able to keep promoting and help him but more than that I guess he helped me, and I guess by helping me, he got his message out. I always talk about when I had no audience I interviewed Seth and I said to him, your book is about how to build a tribe what do you say to someone who has no one? Who has no tribe? I have no tribe here. He started telling me the story about Barack Obama. Barack Obama was travelling with just a photographer for a long time, no one was paying attention to him. Before the audiences that would soon pass out, it was him and one other person in a car trying to get attention and in time that tribe came and I learned from that; just focus on my message and not pay attention to how many people are out there and eventually they will come out and I think by teaching me, he helped influence a lot of people when I wish he would recognize the power of it if he doesn’t, he probably does. As for me when I do, I try to say yes to as many interviews as possible because I don’t know who’s going to be big, because talking to you helps me sharpen my ideas, even if nobody listens to this, even if you accidentally destroyed this interview, the fact that you pushed me to think what I stand for is helpful. The fact that you pushed me to think what I learned from the first version of Mixergy which was to say what you stand for and to look and see how people react to it so that you can know if you’re expressing it right, that’s helpful for me. I think those conversations are very useful.
James: And of course you are putting out a lot of interviews. As an interviewer, you’ve put out one per day I think and also you’re putting out pretty much a course every week. I am sure there is someone listening in to the show right now who’s going, heck I can’t even put out one piece of content per month, how can Andrew be so prolific with his content creation? What’s your secret?
Andrew: I disagree with them. People always think that they can’t. I think they are overthinking it. I say the put out whatever is simplest. I am big on interviews, I’m big on not pretending that we as bloggers and writers and entrepreneurs who know everything. I am big on saying who out there knows? I’m going to listen to them, learn from them, and write what I have learned from them. And so here is my suggestion, if you are going to interview, do it. And second, don’t feel like you have to copy me. Don’t feel like you have to copy trafficjamcast.com. The goal is to find the simplest way to do the interview and get it out there on a regular basis without any headaches to you. The goal is not to make it look good; the goal is not to make your guest look good, the goal is not to make it looked polished, the goal is to keep it simple that you can do it over and over, you get good and better and better so you become the best. My suggestion is maybe what you do is you say I’m going to come up with one question that I care about and my own content generation process is to ask people about that one question, and so you say, Andrew was just interviewed on TrafficJamCast.com, I’m going to interview him too but I am going to keep it real simple, I’m going to say Andrew I only have one question for you, I’m going to type out your answer, and I’m going to put it on my website. That’s it! And then you do it over and over again. And then maybe in time you can say, maybe I can record that and put a recording of it on. And then maybe say, yeah, I could do a video recording of him, and say maybe I can do whatever. Start with whatever, the simplest and repetitive. Every day you want to do it.
James: I guess it is all about creating consistency and a schedule in doing this stuff and you’ve got a deadline that you’ve got to get this out like we do here, we have a deadline of each weekend it has got to be published then you have to force yourself to follow through.
Andrew: Yes, keep it really simple – with everything.
James: There you go. Well, closing question as we get towards the end. I noticed that stats for Mixergy.com that your number 1 traffic source in terms of your traffic it seems to be Google. What is your best traffic source in terms of conversions because you do have a paid element to Mixergy? What is your most effective traffic source?
Andrew: I don’t know. I have tracking on my site and what is noticed is that people will go through the site often for weeks, actually what, conversions I take it back. Google absolutely, and I’ll give you an example it. Someone will be googling how linda.com built its business because they want to build an online education business for example. And then they’d end up on my interview with Linda of linda.com and they’ll listen to that and they’ll pay to listen to it. And they’ll see if I pay to listen to this and hundreds of other interviews that are similar, boom! I’m in! Hey and if I am not happy, I can cancel and get a refund. Google’s terrific but what I notice though is that that is a small portion of my overall sales, where my sales really come from is someone might be listening to this then they come check out my site, then they check out, then they check it out again then they check another interview, then they join the mailing list then they see this course, then they get a little bit of what’s on the course but they want the rest of the stuff so there’s a very long process where they get to know me where they trust that they get their money back, they trust that the content’s good, sometimes it stinks but I want to support them and then they buy. There isn’t a very clear sales funnel.
James: I think that’s the power of what we’re doing here with video and audio, you can really nurture process and people will sample your stuff and come back to you repeatedly again until they feel comfortable enough to take on your paid stuff so I’m sure you’re testament to that. Andrew, thanks for your time today, have you got any final words of wisdom to our listener out there?
Andrew: Yes. You should not just be listening to this interview you should do your own interview. I told you how simple it could be. You just send one email out and ask someone to do with one question, post that one question and answer on the site, you’ve got an interview and that’s it. Keep it simple!
James: Boom! There you go. Cool. So Andrew from Mixergy.com is that where I send people off to as a result of listening to this?
Andrew: Yes, send them off there and I would send them off to your contact pages, it’s on the top of your site and I would encourage them to tell you that you should be doing video.
This week’s news in traffic: For users of Instagram comes the exciting news that you can now share stories not only using pictures but using video too. When you go to the photo application, you’ll the addition of a video camera icon. All you do is tap that and you’ll enter in to video mode where you can take up to 15 seconds of video and share it with your usual Instagram followers. The video feature comes with a bunch of cool settings and the usual types of filters that you are very familiar with in the photo option.
If you’ve seen the little camera icon in the comments field on Facebook, you’ll realize that you now have the ability to add photos and images to your comments on threads. This feature is new, it’s only available to profiles right now and not to pages.
Google’s dominance continues to raise eyebrows in the Federal Trade Commission. A Google spokesman confirmed on Monday that the company has been contacted by the FTC about its $1.1 Billion purchase of Waze, a competitor to Google Maps. The purchase raised eyebrows among consumer groups worried that the internet company’s picking up its competitors one by one. If there is one thing for certain, Google is moving in to many more spaces and we can expect more acquisitions in the future.
Well, there’s a couple of really nice iTunes reviews this week, both of them come from listeners in the United Kingdom. The first one is from Toxic Creative which I happen to know is Chris who will be listening somewhere in North Hamptonshire and he says I am really enjoying Traffic Jam. I’ve been following James a few years now and he obviously knows internet marketing inside out. I tend to listen to this podcast whilst driving in to work and often find myself pulling over and making valuable notes each time. This is definitely a must listen for anyone who wants to increase their online audience fast. Thank you Chris!
The second review, also from the United Kingdom, and also a five star review, is from Tomos Wyn and Tomos says I can attest that James knows what he’s talking about. Anyone who is in to internet marketing should give this podcast a listen. Each episode is full of useful information that you’d probably end up paying for elsewhere. Give it a listen today. Thank you Tomos! Tomos is in fact someone I have worked with several times, he does some of my development work and he’s really knowledgeable guy himself. So thanks Tomos for piping in and leaving a review. If you the listener have a review also, just to remind you, you can submit that in one of three places: the first is on TrafficJamCast.com just simply by leaving a comment beneath the episode on the individual episode page. You also have the option over at trafficjamcast.com to leave a voicemail message which you do using the speakpipe function which sits right at the base of the site so if you want to get your voice heard on Traffic Jam, that’s the way to do it. Any questions or comments will be gratefully submitted there, and of course the third option is to leave a review over at iTunes. Now to do that, you’ll need to log in to iTunes via your computer and then do a quick search for Traffic Jam in the business podcast section and you’ll land up then on the podcast page. Simply choose a star rating 1-5, submit your review, and you’ll more than likely get a shout out on a future show.
The one minute traffic tip- This week’s traffic tip comes courtesy of Clay Collins who I shared the stage with in Sydney, Australia a couple of weeks ago, and he describes this tip as fixing the leaky traffic on your website. If you’re someone who I’m sure has searched the internet several times, you’ll know that you can quite often end up on a 404 error page. This can happen when you mistype the URL or you click on a link from another website that happens to be broken. If you yourself have a reasonably well promoted site along with a decent level of traffic there will be people landing up on error pages on your site too. If you’re smart like Clay, you can actually turn that wasted traffic in to a subscriber. What you would do is set up a custom 404 page that might say something like oops, you’ve landed up on an error page but I don’t want you to leave empty handed. Download my free report, the five things you can do today to instantly boost your website traffic. Then have an opt in form as a way to download that free report that you’ve created. You can do it the hard way and you can mess around with the design from the ground up, or you can use Clay’s Lead Player software and literally make that page with a couple of clicks. I’ll link to the software for your easy convenience from the show notes so whatever device you’re listening to, head on over to trafficjamcast.com and locate the episode page and you’ll find the link there to Lead Pages. This is super simple, it’s not going to make a massive difference to your business but certainly will get you a few extra subscribers per day or so if you have a reasonable traffic and it’s a very quick and easy win. Go try that out, go try Clay’s Lead pages software and let me know how you get on.
That rounds out another episode of Traffic Jam, of course we’ll be doing it all again next week and if you’ve enjoyed this episode, please do log in to iTunes and leave a review. And as I mentioned it may just be that you’ll get a little shout out on next week’s show. Playing out this episode is a track by Faithless. The track is an old classic tune from a few years ago and it’s one you may well know titled Insomnia.
THIS WEEKS NEWS IN TRAFFIC
- Video option in Instagram
- Facebook Video/Photo comments
- Google in fire for buying Waze
ONE MINUTE TRAFFIC TIP
- Fix leaky website traffic with custom 404 pages – Lead Pages
THE TRAFFIC JAM
- Faithless – Insomnia
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