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Anyways back to the story, I spent the summer at the advertising agency shifting between departments, including the media department where they were allotted with buying and tracking radio airtime. With the account executives, who act as the point of contact between the agency and the client sharing the agencies past work, vision for the future and results (although to this day, I don’t know how they were able to attribute radio ads that were running to trackable results).
Last, but certainly not least, I was able to work with the marketing department where the Vice President in charge of marketing took a liking to me. Under his tutelage, I learned how radio commercials are created and the process that goes into writing a radio spot. He allowed me to write a couple of practice scripts for ads and he even decided to use one of them (tweaked a bit, of course, you can’t have a college kid with no experience writing a radio spot for a multi-million dollar client). I was taken to watch it recorded at a radio studio on Sunset Boulevard where the commercial came to life. Over the next 2-3 years, I would hear that commercial driving around town, and it always makes me smile.
After launching True Online Presence, the first year, I released my first book Make Each Click Count –
The T.O.P. Guide to Success Using Google AdWords and immediately gained quite a few clients.
Soon I was facing the issue of limited hours in the day with increasing demands from new companies
wishing to become private clients. I felt that I was starting to transform into just another large,
impersonal S.E.M. agency.
Not to disparage large S.E.M. agencies too much, but they face an ongoing issue that was
difficult to solve and that most of their clients don’t even realize they have.
The larger an agency becomes the more account executives they need to hire to optimize accounts for
their clients. Quite often, the account executives they hire have little to no experience and most of the
time they are lowered paid positions right out of either college or are International, typically from India.
These junior account executives are quickly trained and then asked to manage accounts cutting their teeth learning as they go all on the client’s ad spend. The larger an agency becomes the more junior marketers they hire repeating a nasty cycle that typically leads to poor results for the customer.
Without experience, the best these junior marketers can provide is an adequate solution, and that is the best case scenario. This was not good enough for what I wanted to do for my clients.
In addition, possibly even worse than turning over accounts (unbeknown to most clients) to a junior marketer with limited experience, is the fee structure that the majority of search engine marketing companies use to determine what they charge clients.
Typically, clients are charged a percentage of how much they spend on online advertising through the agency. The going rate is between 15 and 20%. Therefore, junior marketers controlling accounts and the agency they work for are heavily incentivized to spend as much of the client’s money as possible regardless of the results that are producing.
Although not ideal, what are the other choices for e-commerce companies?
That was the issue that I struggled with when launching and operating True Online Presence.
I had to make True Online Presence different for my sake as well as for the sake of my customers.
Here is what I did:
One, I limited the number of private clients that I would accept. This way, I could continue to work and provide constant oversight on all accounts personally.
Second, True Online Presence uses a flat fee per month pricing structure instead of charging based on a percentage of ad dollars spent.
Since 2014, I have used these two guiding principles to separate True Online Presence from the large search engine marketing agencies. Working with a handful of private clients, some of which I have continued to work with since 2014, has been rewarding however I still had a calling that I should be doing more to share my knowledge and vast experience in the moving realm of online advertising.
He also gave me some advice that changed the trajectory of my education. What he said was that what you learn in Business would be obsolete in 5 to 10 years, while what you learn in psychology can be applied for the rest of your life.
Upon returning to school in the fall, I abruptly switched my major to Psychology with a minor in Business. A decision that would add a year to my studies, but hey, this was my dream job I was pursuing, and this is the path the guy who had my dream job had taken. Considering this, I figured out that this change was a no-brainer to continue the course of becoming a high-ranking advertising executive.
The next summer break, I once again returned to the advertising internship. Although I was thrilled to be back at the ad agency, the atmosphere had changed. They had lost a couple of larger clients, including Del Taco, and you could feel the stress throughout the agency. Instead of rotating interns through the different department, they mainly used interns to fill their vacant receptionist role. They are thus avoiding having to pay a full-time receptionist as well as using interns for other chores that were not related to advertising.
Despite this, at the end of the summer, I was thrilled to have received a job offer. I was not excited to discover that the starting salary for a junior account executive was $16,500. In advertising agencies, by the way, junior executives were expected to work around 60 to 70 hours a week, and I calculated that this made their offer the equivalent of about $7.50 (quite a boost from the $4 they paid me as intern, although maybe not since this would be fully taxed. Furthermore, this was not precisely the salary I was expecting coming out of college).
Fueled with student loan debt, disillusioned by my last summer of internship and the subsequent employment offer along with the fact that I still had some general elective classes to take in the evenings to complete my degree, I reluctantly decided that working for an advertising agency was no longer for me.
The problem was that becoming an advertising executive had been my entire focus, and now I needed a new focus for my career.
I took a job with a temporary agency (that paid $17 an hour) while I completed my degree. During this time, I spent almost a year working at a Neuropsychology Hospital, where I contemplated putting my Psychology degree to work in a permanent career path. Although at times rewarding, I quickly concluded that most people visiting a Neuropsychology Hospital are kind of crazy (imagine that:>) and that permanently working in the actual psychology field was also not for me.
In 2000, I took a job for an online stock trading educational website and publishing company. After a year, when they expanded to selling their books online, I was put in charge of their online bookstore, and my new career in Internet Marketing was born.
Although the online bookstore was very basic, which at the time, most websites were, this was my first experience in the world of Internet e-commerce. With the website back then, there was no paid placement or even any SEO of optimizing title tags, the page content or anything else. It really was just throwing your products online, and customers would magically find them through the box genie thing that lived on everyone’s desk.
Geesh, how I wish I were doing what I did then with the knowledge I now have!
As I look back, this was a good introduction to online e-commerce, and best of all, that job was going to make me rich. I was heavily compensated in stock options that were as common as toilet paper with Internet startups, although most of the time not as valuable.
Unfortunately after 3 years, the Internet bubble busted, and most of the staff including myself fell victim to downsizing and those precious stock options that were going to make me rich never exactly materialized.
Fortunately, the vice president at the stock trading/book company had also left after the Internet bubble collapsed in 2003, and decided to start his own online e-commerce venture. He quickly hired me to become the Director of Web and Marketing, which made sense to him since I already had experience running an e-commerce bookstore.
The only trouble was that my former position running the online bookstore was more of counting and shipping books than any actual online marketing.
I said adequate because I believe in becoming excellent, you need experience.
Over the next decade, the experience was exactly what I got. By 2010, we were spending between 60K and 100K per month on Google search ads. Back then, Google Shopping was still a free service named Froogle, so although we advertised using it from the beginning there with no money spent. The 60K to 100K per month was purely on Google Search Ads with another 10K to 15K being spent on Yahoo Search Ads.
Revenues from the website combined with sales on Amazon were approaching 10M annually, and the company was consistently on the INC 5000 list of the most successful companies.
However, like the advertising position that I turned down 15 years earlier, I was expected to be working 65-75 hours/6 days per week, which calculated into an actual dollar per hour rate that was substantially less than the market value for my position. However the good news, I was again promised stock options of some sorts, this time even dolled up in a fancy dress called stake. This translated into the agreement that I should receive a percentage of the gross sale when the company was sold.
Meanwhile, my wife and I had just welcomed our first child in 2009. Working 65-75 hours/6 days per week for someone elsewhere, I had no control was becoming more of an undesired task than the career that I dreamed about growing up in the Midwest so many years before.
I trudged along for a few more years (probably too long to be honest) and when the company sold in 2013 and my stake in the company collapsed, I knew it was time for a change. I also knew that I would never again work for a company that I did not own.
Armed with over a decade of experience in Internet Marketing, I decided to launch my own search engine-marketing agency where I would work with small to mid-sized e-commerce businesses and bingo; bongo True Online Presence was born.
Growing up in Lincoln, Nebraska in the Midwest, for as long as I can remember, I had wanted a career in advertising. Unfortunately for my ambition, many large advertising firms are not located in the Midwest. Well Chicago, but that is really cold in the winter, and I was trying to get away from cold. There is in New York, but that is cold too, so I decided that I needed to move to Los Angeles.
Many people move to Los Angeles to become movie stars. I moved here to become an advertising star.
However, before I pursued my dream job, like with anything, I needed the right tools. I attended the University of Southern California in the mid-1990s, where I was majoring in Business.
During my junior year in college, I earned an Internship at a medium-sized advertising agency, located in the Miracle Mile district of Los Angeles. Best of all, I was paid – a whopping $4 per hour, paid as a contractor so there were no tax withholdings!
This medium-sized advertising agency had about 20 clients including a couple of larger well-known clients, Smart & Final, a grocery wholesaler and Del Taco, a lesser-known west coast version of Taco Bell (I guess they needed better advertising, maybe I should have looked for an internship with the company that handled Taco Bell instead:>).