First Interview with Ty Evans

Ty Evans connects vendors with new customers. He is a hard man to find, and I got lucky finding him through the Fizzle forums.  I feel like this man is always on, and when he’s taking a break, he’s playing brain games.  With a knack for finding people with large email lists, he makes his money doing lead generation through running niche newsletters. Contrary to people who will take any vendor as a client and then go looking for customers for them by any means possible, Ty first builds a customer base by focusing on the problem that people have and then choose the vendors based on how well he feels they will serve the customer in solving the problem.

He’s primary methods of advertising are Facebook and Google Ads, and his next big move is to start a membership site.

Ty Evans started dabbling in online advertising as an affiliate marketer for the sheer excitement of making money online.  It was a leap for him to enter into marketing, as he feels that the techies of the world tend to look down on marketing as a dirty art.  Being a software engineer, he was in college with a bunch of these guys.  

Major Take Away Points from the In Person Interview:

  • The performance of a previously successful ad campaign tends to decrease over time due to market saturation and banner blindness. Because of this you need to change the visual appearance and copy of you ad, find fresh traffic sources or abandon the campaign altogether depending on the circumstances.
  • Rather than trying to get a better deal on the advertising competition, if the traffic is good, put more attention into making a better return on that traffic.  Don’t be a afraid of a product with a higher price point.
  • You can’t just focus on CTR.  It’s a whole system.  Where your ad is placed, how your ads look determine CTR perhaps, but it might not be sending traffic that converts and that often has to do with brand alignment.  It’s interesting that Google AdWords actually cares about how well the keywords reflect on the target page.
  • It is important to commit to testing an idea or platform until you get a statistically significant result. You may lose money up front but this is the cost of arriving at a solution that works. Make sure that you have a sufficient budget to cover this cost before you get started otherwise you will run out of cash and have nothing to show for it.
    • For instance, someone getting into CPA (Cost Per Action) affiliate marketing should start with something like a $1000 runway for their first campaign.
    • Late Ty clarified: “I like to think of it like gold prospecting. It costs a lot of money to drill test holes but it is a lot cheaper than bringing in the heavy equipment based on a hunch and moving tonnes of dirt. When you have drilled a proper group of test holes you know how much you are going to get out of the ground and how much money you should spend to do it.”
      “Each ad variation in your test set is like a drill sample and collectively they will give you a ‘map’ of where the best ‘gold’ (ROI and reach) is for your money.”

Now onto the written interview…

The Intro: In 3 sentences or less, describe yourself and your main gig.

What I do is generally referred to as lead generation or performance marketing. I aggregate and educate customer bases using email newsletters and then connect these customers to vendors for a commission. My subscribers are acquired by purchasing advertising from publishers and platforms as well as joint ventures with partners.

The Man: Who is Ty Evans when not at work?

I’m mostly always working in some capacity. When I am not directly working on my business I am either learning, networking or exercising. Self development is more entertaining to me than most diversions.

The Passion: Describe your mindset – the one that makes you one hell of an advertiser.

I focus above all else on ensuring that the customer is successful in whatever they are trying to do. I begin by identifying a desire that some segment of the population has and then I figure out what it would look like for that desire to be fulfilled. Then I determine the best path towards success by studying or working with the people who have already achieved it. This forms the basis of my newsletters. I then identify all of the products and services that the customer will need to execute on the information that I have provided them and I make arrangements only with the vendors that I think can best serve my audience.

The Story:  Take us back. What were you doing when you first started to dabble in advertising?

I started with affiliate marketing some time in 2007-2008 when I was still in school. To begin with I was using affiliate programs/networks like Commission Junction and Amazon Associates and trying to get traffic by creating small sites and relying on SEO and other organic methods.

The issue I found with this was that growth through organic methods tends to scale with audience size and since the audience size of someone starting out is basically zero, growth is very slow.

This lead me towards paid traffic which only needs money to scale. I also shifted my attention towards CPA networks since their offers generally have higher expected earnings for the approach that I was taking at this time.

I eventually became tired of competing with the underhanded tactics used by CPA marketers as well as the general dearth of good quality offers on most networks so I decided to stop using networks and create my own relationships with vendors instead.

The Strategy: Of the advertising channels you use, where do you focus your time and/or money? How much and why?

Most of my ad spend goes to Facebook and Adwords. The reason that I give preference to these platforms is that they have good targeting functionality as well as high reach/scalability because of the size of their user base.

The high bid prices of these more expensive traffic options do not bother me too much since my strategy is to retain customers for as long a possible and present them multiple opportunities to spend money rather than a one and done transaction. This means that I can usually spend more than other advertisers.  I find that it is usually a better use of time to work towards increasing customer lifetime value in order to bid competitively on high competition, high traffic sources rather than trying to find a million low competition keywords or something like that.

Targeting is important to me because I am aggregating customers on the basis of specific needs rather than promoting widely appealing products or offers. Untargeted traffic just wastes my money and pollutes my data.

Scalability is important because the success of a campaign is somewhat platform specific and if I go to the effort of creating a profitable campaign I want to make sure that I can get as much out of it as possible. With Google and Facebook it takes a pretty long time to hit the limit of their reach compared to other options since almost everyone uses these services. This lets me reach more customers with less work.

A third factor is consistency of results. These platforms provide very consistent results because the ads are always presented in the same context to the same audience type.

Ads will perform differently depending on the context they are displayed in as well as the qualities of the audience of the site so this type of consistency usually doesn’t exist on CPM networks where ads are displayed in a wide variety of contexts to different audiences in a way that is difficult to test and track.

If I want to advertise on content sites, I prefer direct media buys on sites that are a very good fit for what I am advertising rather than using a network that spreads across multiple sites without giving me enough control or data to know why my campaign is failing.

The downside to the direct buying approach is the lack of scale as well as banner blindness issues that aren’t as much of a problem when using large networks. This is why larger budget advertisers prefer using networks.

As a side note, Ty had told me that in order to coordinate all his advertising stuff, he has created his own dashboard and has automated as much as possible.

The Daily Grime: Tell me what you are doing day-to-day – your routine to get your product or service out there.

I have a wide variety of tasks that need to get done at some point but not necessarily daily:

  • Building or fixing my automation software
  • Optimizing ad campaigns
  • Researching markets
  • Finding and making deals with ideal vendors
  • Consulting with vendors to make sure that they are able to close sales and meet the expectations of the customers I am sending them
  • Integrating my software with the vendor’s system.
  • Developing or acquiring email content
  • Putting together packages/offers/joint ventures/events

I can’t do all of these at once so I will do a cost-benefit analysis to pick the task of highest importance and I will work on that until completion before moving on to the next thing.

The Routine: What habits do you find contribute most to your day to day progress?

The habit of questioning all assumptions is something that I have developed out of necessity. It is pretty easy to lose money based on unsubstantiated gut feelings about what people want, what type of language they will respond to and what things are important or not important to a campaign’s performance.

It is important to use proper empirical methodology especially in terms of isolating variables and ensuring a significant sample size. If you are not using scientifically sound methods then you may as well make your decisions based on astrology.

One huge mistaken assumption that beginners tend to make is thinking that each stage of a campaign can be individually optimized and then stuck together.

For example, they will optimize an ad for clickthrough rate, then optimizing a landing page for conversions to email list subscribers, then optimize an email subject line for open rate and then optimize the email for clickthrough rate and so on.

The reality is that there are hidden variables. Your ad creative will affect the conversion rate of your landing page based on how targeted it is and how well it primes the lead for the offer. If you only optimize for clickthrough rate you will lose money.

The same relationship exists between every stage of interaction. Because of this you need to test potential candidates as part of the full chain with net ROI as the primary metric. The other metrics along the way are just clues to tell you what might be missing at each stage but they don’t actually tell you which option is better in the big picture.

The Struggle: What pain points do you have in your current day to day methods?  What could be better?

The complexity of testing and measuring has always been the biggest nuisance in terms of time and money lost as well as the major cause of my biggest mistakes. I have solved most of the problem at great expense by building a well designed system for automating most of the testing and analysis that I do.

Even with my system in place there are always holes in my understanding since some information simply isn’t available either because it is not provided by the ad platform or because it is not feasible for me to run enough tests at my current scale and this leads to losses but it is just something that I have come to expect.

The Advice: What’s your #1 recommended strategy, tool, or tip for people just getting into advertising?

When creating an ad you need to take into consideration how human attention works. Novelty attracts attention. Suspense or urgency hold it.

Your ad should have something strange about it that will draw the user’s eye to begin with.

It should then follow up by either piquing curiosity to the point that the user wants to click to find out more or by making the user feel like they will be missing out on something very valuable if they do not click now.

The Resource: What reading material, book, or blog do you recommend for newcomers in this advertising space look into?

I recommend reading Seth Godin’s books particularly Permission Marketing and All Marketers are Liars. These will help you shape your overall strategy for attracting customers.

The Future of Ty Evans: What’s your next big move in your industry?

I am working towards full vertical integration between a publishing network and performance marketing/ecommerce solution instead of continuing in the middle-man position that I am in now. I also want to shift away from email newsletters in favor of membership sites that will allow members to manage the type of content that they want to see as well as allow me to better track what people are interested in and provide a more interactive experience.

The Tip for AdFortress: If you were to tell me one thing to be remembered to help a direct advertising company, what would it be?

I think the biggest challenge will be attracting advertisers. You will need to make a concerted effort to understand the business cases of the types of advertisers that you are trying to attract so that you can make sure that your solution is a better fit for their particular needs, capabilities and budgets than the other options out there.

You also need to be able to educate them on what a successful advertising/marketing strategy should look like for their particular case so that it is clear how you fit into it.

Understanding and being able to communicate where you fit into the big picture of their customer acquisition strategy is the key.

I have no counter argument.  This will certainly be a challenge to find the right Advertisers – ones that can really benefit from this system.  Equally important is being able to train people on how to use the system and leverage it to buy the right thing. Good tips!  Thanks to Ty Evans!

If you want to contact him, good luck.  I found him on the Fizzle Forums.  I’d love to have him back, so we can do a deeper topic, so let me know if you want to get in on that.

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