Resources for Buying and Selling Online Businesses

Want to Grow Any Business? Embrace Negative Feedback

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Mark Thompson

Mark Thompson is the Co-founder of PayKickstart, a reimagined payment and affiliate platform that enables vendors and digital publishers to sell their products online. PayKickstart is trusted by many esteemed businesses, including Viddyoze, Body FX, Doodly, and others.

Mark is also the Founder and CEO of Digital Kickstart, a company that offers results-based digital marketing products, services, and coaching programs that help users jumpstart their online success.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [1:47] Mark Thompson talks about creating and growing PayKickstart
  • [6:12] How PayKickstart helps its customers reduce churn rates
  • [9:56] The value of a net promoter score (NPS) and customer feedback
  • [16:16] Mark’s tried-and-true tips for crafting a high-quality checkout experience
  • [20:39] Why did Mark choose to build PayKickstart through affiliate management?
  • [28:00] How the 80/20 rule applies to affiliates — and how to maximize on your lucrative affiliate relationships
  • [34:25] Mark discusses the efficiency of an all-in-one platform and offers a final piece of advice for listeners

In this episode…

Do you want to increase customer loyalty and reduce your churn rates? Are you looking for simple — but effective — ways to grow your business?

According to Mark Thompson, an entrepreneur and e-commerce expert, there is one sure-fire way to not only establish but also exponentially expand your company: listen to customer feedback. To some business owners, reading consumer comments and reviews can be a chore — especially if the feedback is less than ideal. However, reading and engaging with both satisfied and dissatisfied customers can give you a crystal clear look into the areas where your business is thriving and the areas where it can improve. So, how can you start to interact with your customers, lower your churn rates, and scale your business today?

In this episode of the Quiet Light Podcast, Mark Daoust sits down with Mark Thompson, the Co-founder of PayKickstart and the Founder and CEO of Digital Kickstart, to discuss how to grow your business by engaging with customers. Listen in as Mark reveals how PayKickstart helps its users reduce churn rates, the key to creating great affiliate relationships, and why interacting with your consumers is the secret to success that your business has been looking for. Stay tuned!

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Quiet Light, a brokerage firm that wants to help you successfully sell your online business.

There is no wrong reason for selling your business. However, there is a right time and a right way. The team of leading entrepreneurs at Quiet Light wants to help you discover the right time and strategy for selling your business. By providing trustworthy advice, effective strategies, and honest valuations, your Quiet Light advisor isn’t your every-day broker—they’re your partner and friend through every phase of the exit planning process.

If you’re new to the prospect of buying and selling, Quiet Light is here to support you. Their plethora of top-notch resources will provide everything you need to know about when and how to buy or sell an online business. Quiet Light offers high-quality videos, articles, podcasts, and guides to help you make the best decision for your online business.

Not sure what your business is really worth? No worries. Quiet Light offers a free valuation and marketplace-ready assessment on their website. That’s right—this quick, easy, and free valuation has no strings attached. Knowing the true value of your business has never been easier!

What are you waiting for? Quiet Light is offering the best experience, strategies, and advice to make your exit successful. To learn more, go to quietlight.com, email [email protected], or call 800.746.5034 today.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:07

Hi, folks, it’s the Quiet Light Podcast where we share relentlessly honest insights, actionable tips, and entrepreneurial stories that will help founders identify and reach their goals.

Mark Daoust  0:29

Welcome back, everybody to the Quiet Light Podcast. Very happy to have you here. I’m excited to have Mark Thompson on the podcast today, Mark Thompson’s from PayKickstart, we’re gonna be talking about subscription based businesses, course creation, customer retention, just kind of a wide variety of topics. Mark. A few weeks ago, we were introduced by a mutual contact. And we just had a wonderful conversation. And I thought, let’s record the next version of this conversation because it’s just a very interesting type of conversation and very interesting individual. Before we jump into this, just reminder that this podcast is brought to you by Quiet Light Brokerage, we help sell digital assets, both in the SAS world content world Course World, obviously, e commerce and FBA as well. So if you are in this world and are looking for a free valuation, reach out to us, we’re happy to provide a free valuation let you know how much your business is worth today, and how much it might be worth in the future, and help you develop that exit plan. With that, Mark, thank you so much for coming on the podcast today. Absolutely. Thank you so much for having me. Appreciate it. Cool. All right. So I’m gonna let go the fact that your Buffalo Bills fan and you took away my favorite receiver from the Minnesota Vikings, and we’re just gonna have a regular good conversation. Got it got to start out with that. PayKickstart. What is it? How did you get into this? And how long have you been doing this?

Mark Thompson  1:46

Yeah, so I mean, PayKickstart, is a subscription billing and affiliate management solution. And so we built it about six years ago, actually about seven years ago. And it started off as an internal tool. So you know, I’ve been an online entrepreneur for over a decade now. And so I’ve sold software, I’ve sold information, products and programs, that kind of stuff. And, you know, I was I found that every billing solution that I used was so archaic, and it had a terrible checkout experience, it wasn’t able to manage our affiliate partners, which that was one of the the main growth levers that we used to build our business early on was using affiliate partners. And so I just found that every platform out there was just just missed the mark. And so, you know, being a software company and running, you know, having developers and designers and QA people on staff or like, let’s build this thing ourselves. And so it started off kind of really small as a very basic shopping cart. And you started to get people noticing, like, Oh, that’s a really cool checkout page, or how did you do this one, click upsell? or How did you add this order bump to your checkout page? And so people were asking questions about it. And they really liked it. And so we’re like, Well, you know, why not allow other people to use this platform. And so we kind of, you know, took a step back, and we decided to make it really our core business. So it didn’t happen overnight, it started off as an internal tool. And you know, over the past five or six years, we’ve just continuously added to it added more features, listened to our customer base, and been able to grow at over a million and Arr, just over the last, you know, four or five years. So

Mark Daoust  3:24

that’s, that’s awesome. And it really is a bit of a Swiss Army knife. When it comes to tools to manage a digital business, I find so many times that businesses are started like yours, right? where it was somebody that they had a need, they couldn’t find a good solution out there. So they decided to build it themselves. And then that grows into something bigger than that. At what point though, I mean, that there has to be a point where you take a step back and say, Okay, I built this thing for me. I built this for us, you know, for my company. And people want to use this. And obviously, they don’t have the same use case. So how do you go about that process of saying, okay, I’ve already built this to custom fit what we’re doing, but we got to take, like maybe 10 steps back to make sure this isn’t so tightly coupled to our needs that other people can make it flexible. What was that process? Like? And how did you guys go about maybe disassembling some of your specific use cases versus Yeah,

Mark Thompson  4:14

world? Yeah, I mean, that was one of the biggest mistakes I think we made early on was, you know, when people started to use it, they’re like, oh, it’d be cool to have this feature. And that feature, and just, it was it just became so overwhelming. And we’re like, oh, my God, how do we cater to all these different companies? And so, yeah, that I think that was what we tried to do early on, we tried to build feature after feature after feature, and we kind of lost our way early on. And so we kind of had to take that step back and figure out, you know, like, who do we really want to go after who’s who’s our target audience. And so, you know, we kind of decided that our core group of people who really get the most value out of our product, our subscription based businesses, you’re doing at least you know, 10k a month and MRR up to you know, a couple million people doing millions 10, you know, 10 million 20 million and beyond. And so that’s really who we want to go after. And so it’s like, what, what do they need to be successful? And so if your subscription based business, you know, they, obviously customer, churn or retention is really important. And so we’re like, Okay, well, let’s build out some features that you know, are related to, to that, and just really give the our customers what they need to not only, you know, manage subscriptions, manage affiliate partners, but then also be able to retain those customers. And so that’s what based off of our feedback from our customers, and really analyzing the data to see, you know, who’s staying with us the most who’s actually using our product the most, we were able to kind of find that segment. And I think that’s really what’s helped us with our growth over the last, you know, year and a half or two years was we were able to kind of niche down and focus, which, you know, the first couple years, were just kind of like, find our way.

Mark Daoust  5:54

Yeah, I want to dig into some of these these things, I really want to focus on the customer retention, I want to focus on the checkout experience a little bit, and then maybe the growth of affiliates, because you grew the business with affiliates, which I think is fascinating. Not a lot of people choose that path. These days, it’s not as popular of an option. But let’s, let’s start real quick with a customer retention. Because for anyone who has a subscription based business, and even for those who don’t, maybe you’re thinking about adding this in, I mean, this is customer retention is like, might not be the only key. But it’s a big, big portion of making a subscription based business work. If you don’t have customer retention, you’re gonna hit a wall, right? If you have a high churn, you’re gonna hit a wall where you can only get so many customers and you can’t grow beyond that point. Because it’s just you can’t add customers faster than they’re churning. What are some of the features that you built into PayKickstart to help people reduce churn? Why those features? And what are the what is the effect that have you seen it be effective for people?

Mark Thompson  6:54

Yeah, so I mean, well, let me start off by saying we learned the hard way. So before we even created PayKickstart, we were using a solution that didn’t even have any form of a way to reach out to customers, when a payment fails. And so we actually, I forgot what it was like between 2014 and 2016, we were looking at just all the failed transactions that are canceled subscriptions. And it was millions of dollars in in lost revenue that we could have potentially saved, just by having a system an automated system to reach out to customers be like, Hey, your credit cards about to expire, go and update your billing details, or Hey, your credit, your credit card declined or Hey, your bank, you know, the bank, wire transfer declined, go and update your details. And so that was the first thing that we addressed was, you know, was was Dunning was churn, you know, just from failed payments. And so, you know, we learned the hard way that 30% of subscription, rebuilds fail. And there’s a number of different reasons why they fail. But if you don’t have a system in place to be able to reach out to those customers and make it really seamless and easy for them to update their details. You’re going to be losing customers, and these are people who want to keep paying you. But you don’t have a way to allow them to, to do that. And so that was the first part was just kind of, you know, involuntary churn just taking care of that. The other part was was voluntary churn, right? So people who, hey, I want to cancel, and you know, you know, a lot of business owners, they’re really afraid to reach out to customers and find out why it is that they want to leave, they kind of just ignore them. And so we did that for a while. We’re like, Oh, they cancelled all the hell with that type of deal. But really, we’ve done a complete 180. And we’ve really tried to get into the mind of our customers, specifically, the ones who are leaving, it’s like, why are they leaving? Is it the product that they have a bad experience? Is it that they just couldn’t figure out how to get to that aha moment with our product. So the onboarding, what exactly is it. And so we want to build an automated way to be able to capture feedback from them, and really understand why it is that they’re leaving. So not only we can try to get them to come back as a customer, but then also for future customers who are looking to cancel, we can try to tackle those, those issues. And so we created this retention or cancellation saver sequence, where we ask them why is why is it that you’re leaving? Is it something with the product? Is it bad? Did you have a bad customer support experience? What was it and then we can add, we can give them a customized rebuttal and say, Well, hey, well, it was price. Well, how about a 10% off coupon for the next year? Will that you know, will that help you or downgrading your plan? Or hey, you know, you say that you needed x feature? Well, once you contact us on live chat, odds are, you know, nine times out of 10 we actually have the feature or we have a way that you can accomplish what you want to accomplish. Let us go ahead and walk you through how to do that. So we’re able to in real time, reach out to these customers who are potentially ready to leave, save them and then also learn from that experience and to help us to build a better product.

Mark Daoust  9:56

You know, one thing I think is a it’s a mindset shift in the role of a business owner and role of a business as well. And that is being hungry for that feedback versus not wanting to hear it. Because it can be it can be offensive sometimes initially, like, especially for if you started something new and somebody’s like your product sucks, like, whoever, and people get it, people are cruel. Alright, I own a subscription based business, as well. And you know, I get a weekly cancellation report and I go through and frankly, I’m at the point now where it’s almost humorous when I see how vitriolic some people can be with their responses. But you know what, there’s some really good feedback in there, there is gold in there. Because even though we use or test all of our stuff, when we go through and we test anything that we roll out, there is no user testing, like live user testing, you know, those are the people that are actually using the product. And when they hit friction, it’s hard to discover that outside of that real world environment. So you’re right, be able to collect that makes a big difference. But somebody has to be willing to be like, yeah, I’m willing to do this. And then I don’t know about you, I’ve gotten to a point of being hungry for it. Somebody can complement what we’re doing. I’m like, yeah, that’s nice. But what do I need to fix? I can’t I that’s, that’s more of what I want here.

Mark Thompson  11:05

Yeah, absolutely. I’ll even go as far as me. And so we’ve automated a lot of the collection of this feedback, but I’ll actually start reaching out to people on Facebook, and I’ll call them on the phone and talk to them now. And I’m like, Listen, you’re like, I have thick skin. Now you’re not going to offend me. But I just I want to just hear from you. And so, you know, a lot of times they’ll they’ll type it right. But other times, it’s sometimes you need to be more proactive and actually get on a call with them and have them open up even more to really drill down into what it is. And sometimes it’s not even under your control. Maybe it’s just something going on in their personal life or something going on in their business. And they kind of just went took it out on you. So it’s important to be proactive. And I see so many businesses that are being more reactive. And it’s a recipe for disaster if you’re not being proactive with with your customers.

Mark Daoust  11:52

Yeah, you know, I had this other business, I have a habit, it has an app. And somebody left this. Absolutely. I mean, it was a scathing review on the app. And the thing is he took the time to write out a long criticism of everything. But it was dripping with sarcasm and just brutal in every way. Now I saw I had two choices. One, I could have responded back and been like, yeah, you’re you’re a jerk, or you know, this is base because some of it was not on basis. Some of it was wrong. But I ended up taking your approach, right, I ended up reaching out to him and said, Look, I saw your review. First, ouch, it kind of hurt. But I really appreciate the fact that you you sent that and you made some really good points. Could I ask you some questions about this? And I went through and I asked him a number of questions. So he came back. He’s like, Look, I’m sorry, that was really harsh. I went back and he ended up revising the review, increasing my rating slightly, you know, not not believing that didn’t deserve it. But I also gained it more importantly, and this was the key takeaway, I got really, really good feedback from him as to what we could do maybe to change the perception among our users. What impact Have you seen with our customers? Do you measure that? Do you see how it’s able to impact their turn and what impact it has?

Mark Thompson  13:03

Yeah, absolutely. I mean, so we do obviously, like I like an NPS score, which is kind of a more broad snapshot of our scoring, right. Yeah, net promoter score. The other thing I forgot to mention was, we actually I actually do a ringless voicemail to everyone who cancels. And I asked them and so I send them a voicemail. And if anyone who doesn’t know what ringless voicemail is, it’s exactly that it doesn’t the phone doesn’t ring but it sends them voicemail. And so they’re gonna get that and I said, I say hey, it’s you know, Mark Thompson, co founder of PayKickstart, I really want to, like understand why it is that you cancelled love. If you would just do a quick 10 minute exit call with me. Just go to PayKickstart.com/exit and schedule it, it’ll go right to my personal calendar. And we’ll jump on a quick call. So that’s, I mean, you know, there’s no better way to measure this stuff than hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth. And so that’s, you know, that’s kind of the way that I’ve, you know, run my business. I know, it can obviously be a little bit harder at scale. But that’s when you can start to hire, you know, a customer success person and have them to have them do that.

Mark Daoust  14:06

Yeah, so the NPS score you you have measured some of this.

Mark Thompson  14:09

We do. Yeah, we do it through through NPS. And then and really just from hearing from them directly, as well.

Mark Daoust  14:15

Yeah, no, that’s great. That’s great. And I think anyone that’s out there that’s doing this, you know, digging into those cancellation reasons, you will find immediate lifts in low hanging fruit too, right? People will bring up things up that you’re just like, that’s super easy. If we can actually, we can do that. And that’s actually a real problem or bugs that maybe you haven’t seen other places depending on it.

Mark Thompson  14:34

And obviously we’re looking at our churn as well, right. So I mean, if you have 30% churn and you’re consistently bringing it down, you guys are on the right track, you’re doing the right things, whether it’s from a product standpoint, from a customer success standpoint. You know, it’s something that you you should always be improving on. It’s never something that you’re just going to go away, right. You’re always going to have customer churn, but you should always be striving to, you know, decrease that as low as you can.

Mark Daoust  14:58

Well, and you know, just from a standpoint of valuation? Because I always think in terms of valuations, right? How much is a business worth, if you have a subscription based business and it’s got a relatively high churn it the multiple that you’re going to get on that is significantly lower than something that maybe has a two to 3%, churn rate two to 3% churn, you can get a really high multiple on a business like that. But if your turn is 8, 10, 12%, now your multiple is really, really struggling. It’s one of the most influential factors for subscription based businesses. And so just thinking in terms of the value of the asset of the business itself, controlling that churn, obviously, it helps you grow, it’s going to have really good positive impacts for your business overall. But the value of the business itself is really, really significant. I wanted to talk, keep moving along, because again, we talked about three things here. And I want to make sure we get to all three, the checkout page that you had people notice, what was the one thing I’ve just kind of itching at the back of my brain right now. You said there wasn’t anything out there? Right? There’s a ton of stuff out there right now, everybody has a solution out there? What was insufficient about what was out there? What did you What did you do that work for you? Then also had enough people say, Well, that was really cool.

Mark Thompson  16:16

Yeah, so I kind of obsessed over the checkout experience for a good year and a half or so I just like I wanted to make it outstanding. And so I’ll give you some really good examples. So you know, obviously, most, you know, most checkout pages, they only offer like credit card, or sometimes they’ll offer PayPal, but I was like that, but some people like in different parts of the world, they like to do like a CH or SEPA wire transfers, right? Or, or Apple Pay or Google Play. Like those are, you know, obviously, people are paying, they’re more comfortable with paying through their phones, right? So I wanted to be able to offer more payment methods and make it super easy for them to be able to send me money, right. And then from the actual checkout experience, you know, having things like one click upsell, so you have your main offer, they put in their billing details, they buy your products, maybe you have some sort of an upsell or down sell or some sort of cross sell or something like that. And what there’s nothing worse than having to go in there and enter your billing details again, after you just gave it to them. So if they’re gonna, you know, they present them with some sort of an upsell, how about just a one click or they just, you know, say, yeah, add it to my order, and it automatically, you know, they get billed for that product, I noticed that, you know, there were some solutions out there that had one click functionality, but I remember like I used once I’m not gonna, you know, singled them out. But I remember I had to buy a an extension for $600 just so I could offer one click upsells. And I was like, That’s stupid. Like, why not just have it, you know, inside of the the cart. Another thing was like, how about when you’re collecting? You know, an address, right? So you need to ship someone a physical package? Doesn’t it suck to have to like put in the address the the city, the state zip code? How about just do like an address autocomplete. So when they start typing in their address, it gives them the list of suggestions and auto fills out the rest of the fields. Like how cool is that? Or like if you’re on your mobile phone, and you’re going to put in your credit card information, how much it’s terrible when you have to use the you know, chose like the normal keypad when it should be showing that the number keypad when it’s just numbers, right? So all these little things which are kind of like anal retentive. But it really adds up to a better customer experience, which at the end of the day is going to give you higher conversion rates.

Mark Daoust  18:33

You’re you’re listening to things that I’m just going through my head of all the times I’ve been checking out and I’m like, come on, like really? I’m trying to give you money people. Right, right. Yeah. It reminds me Have you ever read Tiny Habits by BJ Fogg? I haven’t. So BJ Fogg is a professor, I believe it’s Stanford and someone’s gonna listen to this and say, No, Mark, that’s not the right place. That’s fine. He’s a professor behavior model is right. And he has a very basic behavior model that he teaches, which is all behaviors are the product of motivation, ability, and some sort of prompt, right? And if you take a look at this and say, if you have high motivation and easy ability, plus a prompt, the behavior is going to be done. What you’re talking about here, is that ability portion, and just keeping that as simple as possible. Let me play devil’s advocate, though. I mean, usually people are pretty highly motivated when they want to buy something to actually buy it. Did you see a lot of abandons that caused you to do all this?

Mark Thompson  19:27

Absolutely. And I thought the same thing, right? Like, oh, they definitely want my product, but I’m telling you, it is. It’s very interesting. It’s like an emotional experience when you’re going to buy something. And if you have a bad experience at checkout, really, even if they do buy from you, and they had a bunch of hurdles, you’re just setting a bad example or you’re just you’re starting off the relationship bad, right? If you give them an outstanding customer experience or checkout experience, you’re setting the tone for the rest of it. And they’re like, Oh, that’s just, you know, me, you know, I’m trying to say,

Mark Daoust  19:57

yeah, yeah, no, I it’s I I go what you’re saying, because it’s like, I’m trying to give you money stop ticking me off. Right, right, exactly right. And I want to, if I like you, I might come back and I might buy from you again. But if I, if I remember, man, that was really awful. Maybe I don’t come back, or I have actually a band, I’ve been down. I think I have abandoned sequences, because I’ve tried to do it on my phone. And like you said, the keypad and boy, that it’s such a simple switch from a programming standpoint to say if it’s a mobile, throw the number pad up instead of the full keyboard. But so many places don’t do it. Or they’ll do it with one field, but not another. And am I right? Really? Yeah, yeah. Yeah. All right. I could complain all day, no one wants to hear me complain. Affiliate management, I’m fascinated by this. So affiliate management, Amazon pioneer, the affiliate program, they didn’t pioneer, but they really were the ones that put it on the map significantly. This is years ago, I’m showing my age in the internet world here. Obviously, for a long time, it was a huge part of people’s growth plans. The web hosting industry, which is where I come from, years ago, grew largely on the backs of affiliates, can be a really, really powerful way to grow a business. But it’s not chosen too much anymore, especially with physical product businesses, because commissions really aren’t all that great. Sometimes, why did you choose this? And and let’s just start with that. Why did you choose building your business through affiliate management?

Mark Thompson  21:23

Yeah. So when I first got started, you know, so I was selling digital products. So the margins were super high, you know, if I was selling information, or like a program, right, all it took was, you know, me recording some videos throwing it into a membership area, and the rest is gravy, right? So so it made sense, when I could say, hey, affiliate, I’ll give you 50%, because you know, why not? Right? I mean, if I can make, you know, 100 bucks and give them you know, 100 bucks, it just, it’s so easy, it’s a no brainer, because it removes the risk on my part. Because I’m not having to pay for traffic, I’m not having to worry about trying to get a positive return on my investment, I get to say, hey, as many go ahead and make as many sales as you want, I’ll give you 50%. And so that was one way that I was able to really build my email list early on, because when I didn’t have, you know, I didn’t have any clout, I didn’t have an email list I didn’t have I didn’t, I didn’t have a ton of money to go and spend on Facebook ads, and Google ads and all these different, you know, paid traffic sources. And so I just built relationships with people who already had authority in their space, and already had a way to drive traffic to my offers. And so sometimes you’re going to get people who want to promote your product, because they love your product. And they’re like big brand ambassadors for you, and they’re gonna just naturally talk about your product. But there’s other people who do this for a living, that’s how they make money. And so I like to kind of blends both of those, right and compensate them accordingly. And so that’s, that’s really what I did early on. And so like someone like Amazon, they can afford to only give, you know, 3% for sale, because they’re so big, they don’t, they really don’t need it’s such a small fraction of the pie. But when you’re just starting out, and you’re like, man, I don’t want to go and have to pay 50 grand in ads to try to see if it works, I can just start building relationships with affiliates, mitigates the risk, and it just helped me to really build my foundation. And so as you know, fast forward 10 years, I don’t have to go and pay, you know, 50% commissions, I can go and pay someone, you know, 20% or 30%. And it’s it’s and it’s still a slice of the pie that the the traffic pie, but it’s it’s not as big as it used to be. So if for any of you guys listening, who are just starting out, or maybe you’re just, you know, maybe you are a seasoned business, you have a mature product, it doesn’t hurt to create an affiliate program. It’s so easy to do, give them some, you know, marketing materials to go out and promote your product and compensate them and it doesn’t have to be a huge, you know, commission that you pay them but just giving, you know, something, it can can help get people to incentivize them to talk about you.

Mark Daoust  24:03

Alright, so I’m gonna I’m gonna play devil’s advocate here. I’m going to tell you all the reasons why somebody might not do an affiliate program or, more importantly, why they might get discouraged because I look at a lot of businesses and I see deprecated affiliate programs, right, so they had an affiliate program and say, okay, you have an affiliate program, what percentage of sales is makeup? Oh, we really haven’t paid attention to that. Yeah, in years. Right. And so, I’m going to hone in on somebody who said that when you started out, you just you started to build relationships with people. What how do you go about that process in and of itself, because that’s my experience is that’s fairly intense initially, right? A lot of contacts, and especially when you have no clout, a lot of notes, right, because the influencers, they become influencers because people trust them, and they are very careful. The really good ones are careful about who they put their name to and who they attach their name to. So how did you start out with that to build some of those relationships when you didn’t have cloud? And how much effort were you putting into that as well? Were you talking to 100? People? Did you just select five? And you’re just pretty good at networking? What was what was the secret sauce there? Yeah, there’s

Mark Thompson  25:15

a couple things that I did well, for one, I was able to partner with someone who had more authority than than I did, there are more established. So what was really nice is I was able to kind of attach myself to them and get introduced to a bunch of people. So that was one way that I was able to get into the door. The other thing is just good old fashioned networking, right, just, you know, go and going to events, you know, going going, you know, hanging out in Facebook groups, going to masterminds, and just meeting these people. And, and so obviously, you have to kind of know where you are, from an authority standpoint, right, it’s gonna be hard for for someone that’s relatively unknown to go and try to hang out with some of the top influencers in your space, but you can work your way up the ladder. And so I actually created a spreadsheet. And I just had, I had three different tiers, I had my tier one guys who were like, the big dogs, and then I had the tier two and the tier three. And I started with the tier three guys, the little guys who maybe are not that well known, but were easy to get ahold of to talk to. And then I would always just be like, hey, do you know if anyone else would be interested in promoting this product or someone else that I can talk to in the space. And so they would, you know, give me referrals, and you just work your way up the ladder. And it’s so it didn’t, it never happened overnight. But it happened over the years. And so I think, regardless of what industry you’re in, or where you are in your business career, you should always be networking and just talking to other people in your space. And so I just built it into my DNA. And this has always been something that I do and just, and I don’t spend as much time on it as I should, as I did years back, but it should always be a part of it, or at least have someone who can manage those relationships. And so like, you may want to even hire an affiliate manager at some point, once you start to, you know, manage hundreds or some sometimes 1000s of affiliates.

Mark Daoust  27:01

Yeah, on that point, oh, a couple things I used to that I would just want to pull out because I think it’s so important for anyone even looking at this. One is to integrate an affiliate program or affiliate as some sort of affiliate system into your regular everyday networking anyway. Right? as business owners, we should be networking, we should be getting to know other people, there’s just you can just look around and see the most successful people in the online business world are well networked, right? There are some unicorns out there that are just really good, maybe at certain types of advertising. And they can spin something up without getting to know anyone else. But the people that are really powerful in this space, they network, they have friends that are able to, you know, call on favors, and also exchange those favors and really just help out and add to the community. So integrating an affiliate program to that makes sense, just like you were able to stand on the shoulders of somebody else. And that that’s some something to use as a launching point. Second, well, you had a methodology, you had a spreadsheet, and you worked out that that method, right? So there’s a method besides just throwing this up and hoping that it goes well. So I’m going to throw in that one of the complaints that I do hear from people is the concentration, right? parados law or the Prater principle of 8020 or even 9010, where you have 10% of the affiliates doing 90% of the referrals? And then it becomes an issue of how do you retain that? Or if that person decides to start promoting something else? Or maybe they slow their cadence down of that? Did you see that with your business? Did you have that concentration of the high performers and a lot of other people that were registered but not doing anything?

Mark Thompson  28:31

Yeah, the 80/20 rule definitely applies for sure. You know, but you just you never know, right? When you build a relationship, that while that person may be somewhat small, right now that you don’t know what they’re going to be like three to five years from now. And so that’s why it’s always good to have those relationships, because there’s been plenty of times when I’ll do you know, some sort of a business deal or like a JV partnership with someone. And they’re, you know, no one really knows who they are, right? Maybe they have a list of 500 people, but then I go and talk to them three years later, and they have a list of 100,000 people, they have this massive following. And I’m like, Man, I’m glad that I just kind of built that relationship early on. So you never know. But the 8020 rule is definitely there, it’s really important to take your take care of those 20%. And always try to figure out other ways that you can kind of integrate your business in with those affiliates, because those affiliates usually are running their own businesses to try to figure out a way to integrate more. So whether it’s, you know, like an API integration, whether it’s, you know, like a webinar that you’re like a joint webinar that you do, there’s live or live events or something like that. And the other thing I love about affiliates is finding affiliates in different spaces, right, that have similar audiences, but an audience that you never would have been exposed to unless you actually met that affiliate partner and they, they told their audience about you, right, so don’t always just go after the same type of people. If there’s other industries that You know, or like minded groups of people, you know, the internet’s a big, big place. Right? It’s, it’s, it’s nice to be able to find partners in different industries where your products still kind of over has overlap.

Mark Daoust  30:12

Yeah, no, that’s a fantastic point. And, you know, I found something so Quiet Light, we don’t have a affiliate program, right, per se, but we do have a referral program, which is essentially an affiliate program. At the end of the day, it’s very informal, we don’t have the same like tracking code that you would typically have with a regular referral program. But something that we’ve done very effectively, to be able to grow the number of people referring businesses, we have people naturally referring business over to us anyway, right. But the reputation has helped we have people that have worked with us, maybe they recommend a friend over Well, something that we’ve done is if somebody has recommended somebody over, and then that person ends up selling a business through them, will pay out a referral fee to that person without them even knowing that there was a referral program. Right. And so I’ll contact somebody, I’m literally I did this just the other day, I contacted somebody said, Hey, can I get your wire information, I’m gonna send you $33,000 He’s like, holy crap, like, that’s really, I had no idea, you know, and I don’t really need it, or, you know, it’s not necessary, I’m just happy to refer people over. But the goodwill that that creates in and of itself, is worth it. And also in from my standpoint, it’s the right thing to do, in my opinion, right to reward people who are building your business. So I love the idea, again, of integrating this this and but from what you said, as well possibly hiring an affiliate manager to be able to grow that. Is that something that you guys have an affiliate manager or you? We,

Mark Thompson  31:38

you know, we did we it’s, it’s always been like a love hate type of thing. So it’s interesting, right? Because the affiliates that you work with, especially the larger ones, they want to deal with you directly, they don’t want to work indirectly through the affiliate manager. So it depends, right, you have to kind of pick and choose your battles. So there’s, you know, the larger affiliates that are sending lots of traffic have generated a lot of revenue for us, we take the time out of our day. And when I say we, I have a co founder, you know, we kind of divide and conquer type of deal. And so we really try to spend time nurturing those relationships, but there’s the the 80%, right, the ones who are still, you know, they, you know, an aggregate, they’re actually generating a good amount of revenue, but there’s a lot of them, it’s hard to manage all of them. And you know, affiliates can be needy from time to time. And so that’s when an affiliate manager can really come into play to kind of manage those, those 80%. So yeah, it’s it’s a love hate type of thing. We’ve gone through a couple different affiliate managers. But at the end of the day, between me and my business partner, we tend to kind of really focus on those 20% and really get impact from those.

Mark Daoust  32:42

Would you say that the affiliate program has been the main driver behind your I mean, you said, you’re doing more than a million Arr, which is fantastic. Has that been the main driver? Or is there been something else along the way? I mean, it sounds like you started with the affiliates.

Mark Thompson  32:56

Yeah, so I mean, we started with affiliates. And that’s really what builds our email list. And really what got, you know, got us on the radar. Right. So that’s how we built our audience. And so once we had the, you know, the traction, it was much easier for us to, you know, we started PayKickstart, we were like, well, we have a list of 100,000 people, let’s go and tell them about it, let’s get them onto a webinar lets, you know, so we, so we weren’t able to do that and build that list. Unless we went, we took the step of working with affiliate partners, we could have went a different direction and just, you know, bought it, but we’re kind of a bootstrap company, we didn’t have, you know, millions of dollars to invest into buying traffic and getting people onto our list. So that was one of the ways that we mitigated the risk was using affiliate partners, compensating them for, you know, for leads for sales, and building our audience that way. So it was a stepping stone. And I don’t think we would have been as successful early on unless we went through, you know, working with affiliate. So I mean, nowadays, fast forward, you know, five years, the affiliate piece is not as big, just because we have already kind of been more established. And we do have, you know, the money to spend on paid media, but it’s still a piece of the pie, right. And it’s not always going to be for some of you guys, it might be 80% of your traffic and revenue for other people, and maybe 10, or 20%. But I always think it’s important to at least have that piece of your overall revenue pie.

Mark Daoust  34:25

So you integrated all of these things together. And you know, the last question I have for you, and then I know we’re coming up towards the end of the time here. But why? I mean, it’s not as if these things haven’t been done before, you know, the enhanced checkout page that you talked about. It can be done, right. The affiliate management, there’s plenty of affiliate managing systems out there to be able to do things to turn reduction stuff, this can be done with different integrations, why put everything together into one system? And do you think that that creates a more greater efficiencies for people at the end of the day? Yeah, I

Mark Thompson  34:58

mean, I think it does and It’s showing, you know, based off of our revenue and from the feedback that we’ve gotten so, you know, obviously, yeah, there’s lots of billing solutions out there, but a lot of the billing solutions that, you know, they don’t have affiliate management. And so at some point, though, you have to kind of cut it off, right, you can’t be great at everything. And so we decided, kind of early on that we were going to be great at affiliate billing and affiliate management. And so that’s really what we focused on. And so really, a lot of what we’ve built in terms of terms of feature wise, have been just like pains that we’ve had, or also our customers have had. And so we’re like, hey, if we’re going to focus on subscription based businesses, we know that there’s going to be customer churn, they need to have an automated way to do it. So a lot of the features that we have added in are very strategic. And so what we’ve tried to do is make it you know, kind of an all in one solution, but really focus in on the billing side of things and not try to be your email automation tool, not try to be a membership service, not trying to be a webinar solution. But we have integrations with all of them. And that’s where, you know, we’ve integrated natively with over 60 applications, and we have a Zapier integration. So I think, you know, it helps with the overall workflow. But you have to get you have to kind of pick and choose your battles as to how big do you want your application to be? how, you know, how far are your tentacles going to spread, and I think you saw like, like, Click Funnels, they had some issues, when they were a great checkout page builder, then they started to try to do other things. And they kind of fell short. They were kind of average at those things. And they kind of backtracked, and they’ve publicly talked about this, how they wanted to get back to their bread and butter and what they’re what they’re great at, which is really their page builder. And so now they’ve they’ve kind of backtracked a little bit. And that’s why people love them. But when they tried to do some of these other things that they kind of fell short. And so that’s what we’ve really tried to do is be the best at billing and and affiliate management.

Mark Daoust  36:53

Yeah, I know, trying to build any sort of software product like that way, like so when you try and grow, you have to be able to create so much ability for customization that essentially a billion almost a programming environment where somebody has to spend so much time to setting it up, because there’s so many options, and it multiplies by a factor. Every time you add a new wrinkle in there, there’s a really cool, you know, I hate to have people on the podcast and turn it into an advertorial for their service. But I think anyone who’s built a business up to a millionaire, or as you have, and has had, the experience that you have, has just all sorts of nuggets of wisdom that you’ve picked up along the way. That’s great to share with the team, I think, you know, talking about that checkout experience, that’s super low hanging fruit. And I think from a buying standpoint, or a selling standpoint, if you are in that deposition, and you’re going through maybe you’re evaluating a business that you want to acquire, it can be ecommerce, it can be subscription management, like you cater towards taking a look at the checkout experience and saying is this really optimized? Because there’s going to be low hanging fruit there, from a selling standpoint, the same the same sort of thing, the customer retention, understanding why people are canceling. And then finally, having affiliate management. My favorite thing about affiliate management, it’s completely cashflow friendly, right, you don’t have to spend money to be able to figure out what works, you know, Facebook advertising, AdSense, or AdWords, or any sort of PPC, you typically have to spend 234 months to find out what works. And you’re usually spending at a loss there. So this is really good stuff. Do you have anything else that you’d like to just leave with people as far as like, if you had one bit of wisdom that you would want to give somebody who’s saying, Look, I’m, I’m thinking about getting into the subscription area? So scoped subscription management, maybe they’re starting to course, maybe they have a software program, maybe they just have like, premium content. And I know I’m putting you on the spot by saying one bit of wisdom. What would you What would you give them?

Mark Thompson  38:43

Yeah, it’s it’s tough. But I mean, I always say, you know, focus on the customer first and that experience and make it unbelievable, because if you do that, then the rest will fall into place, right, the revenue will follow. If you’re focused on your customer. and solving that one challenge or pain point, don’t try to solve multiple challenges, because then you kind of just be average at all of those things. So do one thing extremely well do one thing better than anyone else does have that unique selling proposition. And really just continue to listen to that customer and, and make sure that you focus on customer churn first before you go and try to drive traffic I see so many people is like, they feel like if they throw money at it, or like, Oh, it’s just a traffic problem, we just need more traffic, we need more leads. But until you solve the churn problem, which at the end of day comes back to understanding your customer and listening to your customer, you’re never going to be able to scale your business. Or it’s just going to kind of like, you know, trickle along, where you see the hockey stick, like growth. They are the ones that really focus in on the customer and that experience and listening to them.

Mark Daoust  39:48

That’s fantastic. Where can people learn more or reach if they have any questions or wants to just kind of dig in a little bit PayKickstart obviously, com. Anything else? Any other places?

Mark Thompson  39:58

Yeah, we have a Facebook group as well. So If you just put in subscription growth hacks or put in take PayKickstart, we have a private group you can join. There’s 1000s of entrepreneurs and people running subscription based businesses in that group. So love to have you come in there if you ever have questions or if you just want to, you know, meet other like minded people. That’s a great place to go.

Mark Daoust  40:16

Mark. It was great having you on. Thanks so much for coming on. Thank you so much for having I appreciate it.

Outro  40:22

Today’s podcast was produced by Rise25 and the Quiet Light content team. If you have a suggestion for a future podcast subject or guest, email us at [email protected] Be sure to follow us on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram, and subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.

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