How I Started A $600K/Month Performance-Based Digital Marketing Company

Published: June 24th, 2020
Kevin Roy
Founder, GreenBanana
from Boston, Massachusetts, USA
started January 2009
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Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?

My name is Kevin Roy, I grew up in Beverly, a small coastal city on the North Shore of Massachusetts. I am the co-founder of GreenBanana SEO and with our kick-ass team, we have built the Pay For Performance SEO (page one on a Google search for the keyword phrases you choose if you don’t pay) company and full-stack results-driven digital marketing agency.

We have had the privilege of being listed on the Inc 5000 for the last 3 years and twice as one of the fastest-growing companies in Massachusetts. When we started 12 years ago it was just my partner and I working on a beer pong table in a tiny office billing out just enough to pay our bills. We reinvested in technology and staff and now we have 16 employees and about 6M in revenue.


What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?

Most companies experience origination and birth simultaneously and some sequentially; GreenBanana’s start falls under the latter. The company originated in 2009 when I left my job as an internet director at EMC, bought a used Dell, and approached 3 successful business owners with an offer. I will build you a new website for free if you tell everyone you know about us. The referrals from those 3 business owners launched the company.

Take calculated risks but make sure they are calculated.

GreenBanana, however, was born from a paradigm shift resulting from one difficult, yet inspiring customer meeting. Circa 2011, about 24 months after the company was founded, GreenBanana was presenting the results of our latest SEO (Search Engine Optimization Campaign) to a large client. Countless hours had been spent putting together comprehensive reporting, illustrating in painstaking detail all of the work we had completed. The report was met with a boardroom full of blank stares, rather than the anticipated high fives and accolades, and one question; “So, what has your company done to help us?”

It was that question that has shaped the company and truly birthed GreenBanana. During that meeting, we realized that SEO and other digital marketing campaigns look like black magic to those who don’t live in our space. If the reporting is fancy enough a well-optimized campaign and poorly optimized one look virtually the same. We realized that clients were looking for simple results that they could verify and quantify. It was that day Pay for Performance SEO was born, it was that day that all reporting focused on customer goals and lead generation. It was that day that complex reports were shuttered for what matters most to clients; results.

Ever since that meeting 9 years ago, every campaign we touch is based on identifying results our clients want to achieve, doing whatever it takes to help them achieve them, and being 100% transparent by simplifying our reporting.

Take us through the process of designing, prototyping, and manufacturing your first product.

We are more of a service than a product business however we have designed a few products and tools to make us unique. We are the first agency to offer pay for performance (PPP) SEO; meaning that if we fail to produce page one rankings for our clients, we don’t bill.

While we don’t guarantee page one rankings, we do guarantee that unless we charge for page one rankings we don’t invoice. Each campaign typically has 20 keyword phrases and the client picks the keyword phrases. Our PPP model made both a significant impact on revenue and customer satisfaction. While many SEO’s can confuse their clients with reporting that the clients don’t typically understand our clients are able to, right away to see if we are producing the results they signed up for.

Over the last 12 months, we have built a robust order entry platform that allows our white label partner agencies to order products and report results to their clients. We have private label reporting software and a self serve private label quoting platform that allows our partner to generate their own proposals. (A large amount of our business is as private label digital partner acting on behalf for over 85 agency partners).

Describe the process of launching the business.

The company originated in 2009 when I left my job as an internet director at EMC. I bought a used Dell laptop and approached 3 successful business owners with an offer.

“I will build you a new website for free if you tell everyone you know about my services”. The referrals from those 3 business owners launched the company. In the beginning, it was just me building websites so that I could have enough time to surf; as more business came in I ended up working with a developer to help offset my workload, and eventually, he and I became business partners.

We built websites for a while, and still do, but started to learn that building sites are like flipping houses, no recurring revenue. We started having clients ask about SEO services and digital marketing services like Adwords and display. These types of services allow us to add a steady stream of compounding recurring revenue. It is important to note that while recurring revenue is great, these campaigns are must be continually maintained, so there are associated costs.

Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?

Well, we launched 12 years ago however we have a great group of technophiles here (including myself) who are constantly researching and evaluating new platforms and digital media ad products to offer to our clients. In the last 90 days alone we have launched new software and 2 new digital products.

If you are in the digital marketing business being able to help your clients stay ahead of current trends so that they can continue to outmaneuver their competition is a critical component to growth.

How are you doing today and what does the future look like?

Great, despite being in business since 2009 we have made the inc 5000 for the last 3 years in a row. As long as people advertise online and we continue to adapt and innovate for our clients the future looks fantastic.


Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?

Yes - in the beginning, you almost have to say yes to everything and everybody, but you still have to deliver quality as you grow. The gap of saying yes to everything and maintaining quality will widen so you have to start being selective.

For me this has always been difficult; being in a service business you are programmed to make your customers happy, but sometimes in order to do so you just have to say no, but no is better than sorry.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Slack, Salesforce, Adwords, 4 different DSPs, FB and Instagram managers, Linkedin, Waze, geo Fencing Conversion Technologies, Google Analytics, Google data studios, basecamp, Monday, and a few others.

What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?

This is a hard one because there are so many great books to choose from. My default go-to book is Think and Grow Rich, I love Good to Great, The Purple Cow, Crucial conversations, Extreme Ownership, Cashflow Quadrant, and the Master Key System. Favorite Podcast of all time - Tim Ferris. If you don’t do anything else listen to Tim Ferris, it will change your life.

Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?

Take calculated risks, but make sure they are calculated, I have always played it moderately safe and while that may have caused the company to grow a little slower we are rarely in a compromising position. Don't be afraid to ask for help. Most entrepreneurs love helping fellow business owners out because someone helped them.

Cultivate relationships, as many as you can. I could write pages and pages of examples of how relationships have shaped this business; make this one of your core principles. Finally, do something else besides work that you like to do. I lift weights and do Krav Maga and no one is giving me a medal for either of them but it gives my brain a break every day.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Always, interns, ad execs web developers, and SEOs… not contractors.

Where can we go to learn more?

If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!