The Transcript Is Auto-Generated And May Contain Grammar And Spelling Errors
Tyler Jorgenson 0:01
You’re listening to biz ninja entrepreneur radio. This show was created for entrepreneurs, business owners, marketers and dreamers who want to learn from the experts of today and drastically shortcut their own success to build a business that supports their dream lifestyle. Since 2011, Tyler Jorgensen has been interviewing business thought leaders from around the world, a serial entrepreneur himself, Tyler also shares his personal insights into what’s working in business today. Welcome to biz Ninja, entrepreneur radio.
Welcome out to biz ninja entrepreneur radio, I am your host, Tyler Jorgensen. And today we get to talk with Greg Hoffman, the founder, owner, CEO, and chief awesome officer over at Apogee. They are a leader in affiliate marketing. And I’m really excited to talk with Greg because we’ve known each other for a few years, we’ve never had an opportunity to go deep on his journey and about his agency and what they’re doing. So welcome to the show, Greg.
Greg Hoffman 1:08
Well, thank you very much. I appreciate you inviting me here.
Tyler Jorgenson 1:11
Hopefully, that’s on your business card, that chief, like amazing officer or something, something similar,
Greg Hoffman 1:17
but I’ll add it definitely.
Tyler Jorgenson 1:21
Awesome. So let’s go back to the very beginning. And then we’re going to come and we’re going to jump back and forth and timelines here. When was the moment that you first realize that you are an entrepreneur?
Greg Hoffman 1:31
Well, this is my second attempt, I tried this, what yours is I tried this 22 years ago, and that first business failed. It was a PR agency. And I had some built in clients, I had four or five clients. But I didn’t have the sales experience to or the funnel to keep finding clients. And that was about four years. And then I had to go get a real job. And then I bounced around for a while.
Tyler Jorgenson 2:03
So that’s kind of what happens with a lot of people as they become self employed. Right. And then they realize that there’s other, there’s a lot of other pieces of the business that have to happen for it to when you need a sales system or a sales team. And you need, you know, account management. And it happens a lot where someone’s great at something. So they think, well, I’ll just do it on my own. But it doesn’t have the same security. So when you decided to relaunch and do it again, what do you do differently,
Greg Hoffman 2:29
I found the pool that I wanted to fish on. And I knew that I surrounded myself with people in this industry that were dedicated to helping me with the business. And I also knew where to find my prospects. And and it was done out of necessity. You know, because that’s where I was 12 years ago, when I launched this company. I didn’t have anything else I’d left my my previous job. And so I’m like, I’m finally going to do this. But now I’ve learned lessons. I’ve got some specialty in this industry. And let’s try this again.
Tyler Jorgenson 3:05
So Apogee agencies, your company name, what how’d you come up with that name?
Greg Hoffman 3:10
Well, we were originally Greg Hoffman consulting for the first six years. And I knew it at some point, it wasn’t going to be just about me, I started hiring some employees. And I went to one of my mentors. His name is Peter Shankman. We both know Peter. Yeah. And, and I got on a call with Peter. And I said, I need a new name. And he says, Okay, I get that. Let’s start thinking, and he’s a fast talker. He’s a fast thinker. And he he says, Where do you want to be? Where do you see yourself? And I said, I see myself at the top of my industry. And it’s like, Okay, well, there’s a word that I like, and it’s called Apogee. And it’s, it means it’s the top. It’s It’s where the peak of the satellite. And so he basically said Apogee and I’m like, oh, man, do not now what do I owe you? Because the three minutes to the call, and you’ve already given me the business name, like there’s no brainstorming. I was stuck right then in there. And I told my team, I’m like, we’re called to Apogee now. Yeah. And that happened.
Tyler Jorgenson 4:17
I love that it wasn’t a brainstorm. It was just like a brain lightning bolt. It just happened. Like it just there was he said it now was it we’re done. It’s a three and a half minute conversation. And this was way close to 12 years ago.
Greg Hoffman 4:28
Well, this was in the middle. So what can I changed in 2016?
Tyler Jorgenson 4:33
Okay, so not too long ago, really like so I guess that’s five years now. It doesn’t feel like a long time ago. So do you have anything you read you rebrand as Apogee. You guys do affiliate marketing. Most of our audience that listens to visit ninja radio are entrepreneurs or an e commerce of some type for those that are unacquainted, what is affiliate marketing?
Greg Hoffman 4:54
So I guess I were should have thought of this definition. Marketing is It’s tracking your sales from a blogger, an instagramer, a website owner, that is promoting a brand and a trackable links. They’re promoting the brand to their audience. And if that customer buys something from the brand, then the the blogger in the middle is going to make a commission. Generally, it’s going to be about 10% piece of the average order.
Tyler Jorgenson 5:29
Okay, so it’s affiliate, an affiliate is simply someone who’s who has a relationship with a with the business sends traffic their way in exchange for a percentage of sales that happened. And so what do you guys do affiliate marketing, you go out and for businesses, you find these affiliates, and you help them help them do a good job. Right. Right. Like, what is there a difference in quality of affiliates?
Greg Hoffman 5:58
Oh, yeah, there’s, there’s a big difference. And and that’s in, in my 16 years of affiliate marketing, I definitely have my opinions on good affiliates versus the bad affiliates. And there are 10s of 1000 bad affiliates, and bad meaning not bad, but just not good or not quality. So that’s what we focus on is finding relevant affiliates. For each brand. It’s not we do have our go twos, we work with corporate affiliates that are good for all brands. But no matter what the initial is, we’re generalists, and in affiliate marketing, so we’re going to when we launch a program, or we take over a program, we’re going to look for the ones that are relevant for that brand, they already understand the brand. They like the products, and they want to be ambassadors, and they want to make money.
Tyler Jorgenson 6:49
So if somebody is has a successful brand, they’re they’re running on, you know, they’re doing Facebook ads, or they’re doing Google ads, and they haven’t gotten into the world of affiliates or PR or influencers. How do you How does Apogee and the Greg, your team? How do you guys help them?
Greg Hoffman 7:08
Well, first, I’m gonna make sure that they’ve got existing sales, it’s hard to work with a startup. Affiliate Marketing does not automatically bring you new customers. Affiliate Marketing is a secondary type of channel where paid search paid social p, those are all frontline that’s going to introduce the brand’s affiliate marketing is going to introduce your brand, but there needs to be some brand reps in first. So I want to make sure that the brands that I work with typically have at $50,000 a month in overall online sales, if not more, the best case studies we have are brands that have never had an affiliate program, but they’re already in the five to $10 million range. And, and they’ve got brand recognition, they’ve got community. And and now they’re okay. Well, let’s let’s finally explore affiliate marketing. And that’s when we can launch a program in lightning strikes within a few months. And we can we can see, because their community is there to become the ambassador. Right? If we add?
Tyler Jorgenson 8:20
Yeah, I’ve definitely seen the opposite of that where a brand thinks, you know what, I don’t have any traction, I haven’t been able to figure out how to get sales through paid traffic. So I’m going to go do affiliate marketing, and that’s going to solve all of my problems, right? It’s a, it’s a similar thing that we say to paid traffic, like if you can’t convert organic traffic, paid traffic isn’t gonna fix the problem, right? Like it’s same concept like you’ve got to figure out the mechanism before you put any kind of fuel on the fire kind of any catalysts in place. You know, you talked about some case studies and some big, you know, big, big clients that have had some wins with you share some wins. What are some cool things that you guys have done for clients?
Greg Hoffman 8:59
Well, and we’ve got some great clients. One of my oldest clients, is Snake River farms. So they sell very high end Wagyu beef, they sell steaks, they’re not your grocery store type of steaks. When you go to a high end restaurant in Vegas, or New York, and you look at the menu and it and it says Snake River farms next to the steak. It comes directly from the farm in Idaho. And and then you go home and say, Oh, well, let’s see if I can order those same steaks. So they find Snake River farms calm. And it’s a very niche group of people that are willing to spend $300 on steaks, right? But we’ve grown that program into millions of dollars through the affiliate channel over the last seven years that we’ve been managing that program. So and they always cringe when I started talking about numbers. I didn’t give away any numbers. Now that was broad enough, but but it’s a big, very successful program. And we’ve got Hundreds of affiliates that are extremely successful in their. And it’s all based on the fact that Snake River farms is not readily readily found at your grocery store. It’s not at Walmart, you can’t find it on Amazon, you really need to go to Snake River farms calm or Gordon Ramsay’s in Vegas to get that kind of quality. So that’s why that program has done so well. Their direct consumer website, rocks, and it converts, and it’s just in 2020, it increased by 800%.
Tyler Jorgenson 10:35
Yeah. Yeah, it’s, it’s been interesting watching which brands grew during this last year or so. And which ones really struggled? And I think it came down to who, who was already leaning in to the, to the changes, because really, all that happened recently was the things happened faster, right, and the trends that got accelerated. What, um, you mentioned that not everyone is like that there’s kind of a time for affiliate marketing and a brand, right? If you use that kind of 50, KS, your guyses threshold, if someone comes to you, and they’re not quite ready for that, or let’s just say a business in general isn’t ready for affiliate marketing yet? What are the things that they should do
Greg Hoffman 11:14
to get there? Well, and we’ve started to shift our business model over the last year and a half to include public relations, any type of digital ads, influencer marketing, social media management, it all leads into how we can build you up to get ready for affiliate marketing, but you need to have everything else you need paid search, you need paid social, your website needs to convert, you have to be wanted and needed by the community. So conversion is totally on on their website. And that’s your expertise. And, and so I always go back to them and say you’re not ready for affiliate marketing. I see more than 200 affiliate programs launching every single month on different networks. And 198 of them are never going to have any sales. And that’s because they launched way too early. And they didn’t have a strategy, or they most of them just didn’t have a strategy they just launched and say this is this is the next great thing we need to do this. And then they end up hating affiliate marketing, because it never worked for them.
Tyler Jorgenson 12:25
Sure. Yeah, that’s and that’s real common. When people enter a new category in their business it Oh, it didn’t work. Therefore, it’s it’s bad. It’s like, well, maybe you didn’t deploy a good enough strategy. So let’s go back. You you. I love that you, you made an initial attempt into starting your business, you went back into the corporate world, and you came back and started it. As you’ve been growing Apogee agency, what are some of the internal, like, challenges that you guys had to face? And how did you overcome them? Well, I mean, the biggest challenge is, is getting me out of the day to day. Yeah,
Greg Hoffman 12:57
I’ve been trying now for two years, to get out of the day to day I am out. I’m 99% out right now. I’ve been trying to get out because when I started this 12 years ago, it was just me. And it was my strategy. And I learned from mentors in the industry. And I had some employees along the way, as of about two years ago, we were there were five of us. Well, now there’s 15 of us. And, and I, it was hard to actually get out of, you know, start delegating things, and to train them and trust them to do it the way I would do it. Because I am very strict with my standards. And and that I mean, the hardest part was just me walking away and saying, Okay, I’ve got to trust the team now.
Tyler Jorgenson 13:46
Yeah. And that’s so what’s fascinating is you’ve talked about really the shift from employee to self employed. And now you’re really trying to make the shift from from self employed to business owner. And, and that’s a hard shift for a lot of people. A lot of people don’t make it because because it’s so hard to delegate, right? And it’s so hard to make that let go. When you’re when you’re making that shift. Where are the things that you want your energy, like if you’re out in the day to day, what do you get to do now that gives you the greatest opportunities to have impact on my business card,
Greg Hoffman 14:19
it’s not going to be chief awesome officer. It’s going to be chief marketing officer. I’m I’m truly moving away from CEO, to the Chief Marketing Officer, that’s where my roots are, I want to be the marketing guy. I’ve got a director of PR and she understands PR and 2021. I understand PR great and 1998. So I’m obviously not the PR person for the company or our clients, but I at least that those are our roots. And so I want to get back to the education I want to write more I want to market the agency. I’m the head cheerleader at this point. And I’m also the chief morale officer which really bugs the employees? Because I have, I’ve way too many dad jokes and everyone I call myself chief morale officer. They just they all roll their eyes on
Tyler Jorgenson 15:12
- But you know, what if it’s hopefully the it’s like a dad joke, right? Where it’s a rolling of eyes, but it’s in it and through affection. And I love that man I love, I think every every business owner has to recognize, do they want to be the CEO? Do they want to be the CMO, some some of them don’t want to do either of those things. And their talent is in being the operations officer. And for others, it’s like, you know what, you need to extract yourself all the way to the board levels, right and let other people do it. And so I think what’s so cool about business is that we get to choose, we get to pick which way we want to do it. And so have you found that you’ve had to, like fight through your own, like expectations of what you’re supposed to do in order to do what you want to do? Yeah,
Greg Hoffman 15:56
there have been some days where I sit around on like, I don’t know what to do now. But I, I’ve got a list of things. We’re in the process of redoing the website. So that’s going to be a big thing is once the website is done, then I’m going to really start blogging more. I started blogging in 2003. And, and so but I haven’t blogged I’ve maybe posted one thing this year, and that that’s kind of killing me. So yeah, there’s there’s lots of projects that I’ve got, that are marketing based projects that are going to help the agency and help the reputation. But the industry has evolved so rapidly over the last couple of years, there’s been a lot of consolidation, the conferences, the conference, the original owners of Affiliate Summit, they’ve sold out. So there’s new owners. So the conference scene is completely different. The networks have been bought and sold. And so those are all different. Some of my competitors have sold out. And then we’ve had a wave of new different types of affiliate models come in. So we really have to evolve and stay ahead of the trends. And and I want to get back into writing about all of those things.
Tyler Jorgenson 17:10
Yeah, it absolutely. The interesting thing is when I first got started in e commerce, I didn’t go to like all the marketing summits and the things that I probably should have. But I did go to Affiliate Summit and I went to, like the expos that were more in the consumer packaged goods space. And it was interesting in that, and then I would go to events that were around like infomercials. So I got this really like unique perspective on the digital marketing world. But man over the last few years, you’re absolutely right, like so many of the events are changing a lot of ownership, his shifts have happened. And I think there’s a great opportunity for leadership and for people to have a voice in that space, because because of all that change. So it’s cool that that’s what you really want to focus on that contribution. I think that’s neat. What would you say are some, if somebody is at that point, they have the momentum, they have the sales, they meet all the checkbox of like, Apogee agency says they’re ready to do affiliate marketing? What are some common mistakes at that point? And how can they How can people safeguard themselves about being affiliate idiots?
Greg Hoffman 18:15
Well, launching on their own is his mistake. Choosing the cheapest agency out there is going to be a mistake. There are and now I get to trash some of my competitors. Some factories out there, there are agencies that are basically factories, and they’ve got 300 or 400 different clients. And they’ve only got five account managers. So one of the differentiators is is we are going to come up with a strategy that is right for the company. And we’re not going to give you to an account manager that’s got 49 other accounts. So one of the mistakes is you think it’s easy. You think it’s going to work next week, you and I use these words for forever, we have to manage expectations. Oh yeah, you have to tell the clients, this is going to take six to 18 months to get what you want out of the affiliate channel. It is not going to happen in the first three months. In fact, there is we need to we need to I probably need to talk to Peter about this. We need to coin this phrase. There is a curse in month four when it comes to affiliate marketing. Where where we we’ve got great momentum we bring in a couple of good affiliates. We’ve got one sale in month one, we’ve got five sales a month two, we’ve got 15 sales a month three, and then month four, we’re back down to three sales. And in month four, the client is sitting sitting there going, Man, I’ve paid you all of this money, and where are the sales and I’m like okay, remember that day when you sign the contract? I said We’re going to have this conversation in month four, and you’re going to not be happy, you have to wait for a month 6789, it’s going to take time to get the affiliates interested in your product, we’re going to have to convince them that they can actually make money selling your products, it’s going to take six to 12 months, they don’t listen to that even clients that are with us right now are going to forget that. And they’re not going to remember that I said, in month four, you’re going to question everything you’ve done in life.
Tyler Jorgenson 20:35
The, the interesting thing that I see with this, is when people hire an employee, like let’s say, the hiring a receptionist, they one, they don’t expect that person make them money day one, they understand that there’s a training, there’s learning curve, that they’re going to have to mentor and coach that person to be as they add on more and more roles and services, or like things to their job scope. But for some reason, when you hire an agency, yes, you want to move faster, but there’s still a curve, right, you still have to get in motion, you still have to get traction, you still have to make relationships. And if you’re doing it the right way, like what you’re talking about, you have to go actively nurture those, then you have to set them up, then you have to have sales calls, like it’s a process. And the people who have the long term vision, and the patients are the ones that get to enjoy the fruits of all of that, right. And too many people cut ties, right before things start to take off. So I think in any if you just my advice to anyone hiring any type of agencies understand if you should know, within the first month of your communication styles are good, if that part’s in sync, but for results, it’s you’ve got to have a six to 12 month horizon, because it takes time.
Greg Hoffman 21:46
It felt like am I agree? I agree. If I can get them to get to get to the six month mark and be happy, I’m gonna keep them for five to 10 years. Yeah. And I and I do have a client that has been with us now for 12 years, I’ve got, I’ve got an entire list of legacy clients that have been with us at least five, if not up to 12 years. So when we get them to that point, and they’re cool, and they understand that it’s a process, then they get to see, like Snake River farms. When we started that program. It was very, very small. We were talking 10s of 1000s, just in the first year, and now we’re talking millions a month.
Tyler Jorgenson 22:28
Yeah, absolutely awesome. And I think the hard thing is like, for some people in eecom, like some people have really good at dreaming big. So like, okay, I want to have $10 million in sales, my first month of my Okay, that might be ridiculous. And other people think too small. Like, oh, you know, I only wanted a website that does 10 $20,000 a month is not enough to even hire a full team to run it. Right. So it really becomes a job again. And so there’s this weird thing where I find like, you know, the best people are the people that understand I want to get somewhere. But I understand it needs I need to grow little by little to get there. But then soon enough, all of a sudden, you’ve got those big winning brands that are crushing it online, and just dominating their space. You know, you’ve been around the affiliate marketing world and PR and all this. And I think things have changed a lot in the last 12 years. What do you think some of the upcoming changes are? What are things that people need to be aware of coming down the pipe?
Greg Hoffman 23:26
Well, the biggest change for us over the last few years is mass media publications have discovered affiliate marketing. And and I think, you know, traditional Facebook advertising paid search, it is going to evolve. And and I think affiliate marketing partner marketing is still going to be a very big part of it, because everyone’s going to want a little bit of piece of that tracked conversion. Yeah. And and so it could be it. I’ve seen it now evolving into streaming TV. So they’re starting to understand trackable conversions. And and there are platforms out there that that are now looking at beyond just the website conversion. So I think affiliate marketing is in the the new term as part of our marketing, right. So I think partner marketing really is going to continue to evolve. And it’s going to be there. And that’s that’s where that’s where people are going to move to.
Tyler Jorgenson 24:26
Yeah. And I think that’s as the market becomes more sophisticated understanding. I think it’s one of the things we’re used to just go pay for advertising. But if an advertiser if the person who has the audience believes that the product is great, and that their audience is going to resonate, by setting up a partner relationship, they could actually make more than had they just charged for the right for the placement and they can build a long term relationship, instead of always having to look for new advertisers. So when you can create partners, you can create long term wins for both sides. And I just think it’s the coolest thing because we can track right we Cuz it’s trackable, you know if it’s working, and that’s just right.
Greg Hoffman 25:03
And that’s where PR has changed drastically in the PR agencies have fallen behind, they weren’t necessarily prepared to transition to affiliate marketing. And so there’s a lot of PR agencies that are now managing affiliate programs for one specific way to track things. They’re, they’re, they’re thinking in the 1% range, and they’re very narrow scoped. And we obviously see the big picture. So that’s why we’ve added PR, to our agency. So you know, we can you can get rid of your PR agency, and you can come to us because we can take care of everything at this point. So I think that’s going to be that I know that the bigger agencies are going to get it, they’re going to understand affiliate faster. We already understand affiliate.
Tyler Jorgenson 25:55
I love it. So great. First of all, everyone should go check out Greg at Apogee agency comm they’re on Instagram as well as at Apogee agency. Greg, my I’m a big believer that building businesses, all of this risk and energy that you put into it is about building the lifestyle that you want. One, what is one major item on your personal bucket list that you’re going to accomplish in the next 12 months?
Greg Hoffman 26:17
In the next 12 months? Well, I can already tell you I did something a month ago. I’ll take it What was that? I went out I bought a dream car would you get? I got my pony. I got a Mustang GT and I drive it every day. Because I’m out of the day to day I need a little de stressor so I bought a Mustang I needed a Mustang it’s it is the greatest therapy I could possibly imagine. Sounds awesome. Oh, good day over the next 12 months is knowing that I’ve got my work done I did some writing and I’m out on the interstate riding my Mustang.
Tyler Jorgenson 27:00
I love that and it’s so cool. All right, my business just wherever you are listening, it’s your turn to go out and do something.
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