This is a follow up story for MonetizeMore. If you're interested in reading how they got started, published about 2 years ago, check it out here.
Hello again! Remind us who you are and what business you started.
MonetizeMore provides ad technology to large Google AdSense websites. Publishers who monetize their audience via display ads can either outsource their ad operations so that one of MonetizeMore’s ad optimization teams will handle all their ad optimization tactics, execution, and strategy.
If publishers prefer to keep their ad operations in-house, they could use PubGuru (The Hootsuite of the ad technology industry) to get access to powerful ad technology to boost ad revenue performance and optimize via an easy-to-use platform while still getting full reporting transparency and maintain full ownership of their ad inventory. MonetizeMore developed PubGuru to complement any in-house ad operations team. Overall, MonetizeMore offers the complete solution for publishers that prefer to outsource ad operations or ones that prefer to keep them in-house.
Since the last update, MonetizeMore made $23M in Gross Revenues in 2019. Below is the last company retreat we had in Q1 2019. We can’t fit everyone in our company retreat photos anymore!
Tell us about what you’ve been up to! Has the business been growing?
Since the last update we launched Traffic Cop in September 2019, PubGuru in October 2019, PubGuru University in November 2019, and our Chrome Extension called PubGuru Ad Inspector in January 2020. Each has led to increased traffic, leads, and overall revenues. Each of these tech releases has led to major growth in Q4 2019 and Q1 2020.
The latest SEO updates in May 2020 have been good to us thanks to our white-hat strategy and focusing on empowering ad monetized publishers via content. MonetizeMore’s traffic has almost doubled since last year thanks to SEO, more video content, greater participation in forums, more social media initiatives that have received traction, and integration of marketing initiatives with newly developed tools. For example, we’ve been creating deep-dive articles and screencasts how to solve publisher pain points via our tech.
On the social media front, we’ve had some creative fun with it. Ad tech is known to be quite dry and stale. We decided to go against the grain and squeeze some fun out of ad tech with topical ad tech memes like the below:
As you can see, MonetizeMore got a fair bit of engagement for such a niche audience which has led to a greater social media following, improved brand awareness and it’s been a great way to engage our target audience. Remember, we’re not just tech, not only ad tech but we’re specifically sell-side ad tech. In other words, not even people that buy traffic via display ads would get our nerdy inside jokes! Doesn’t that make it so much more special?
PubGuru Ad Inspector (PGAI) has been a great new source of leads. Publishers would download the Chrome Extension to scan their ad inventory for errors, warnings, or ad revenue increase opportunities. It helps ad optimization agents to prioritize what to work on to either fix issues with their ad inventory or increase their ad revenues. Whenever they are suffering from an issue that can be solved by a MonetizeMore product, we give them a customized notification that will show them how to use our product to fix their problem. Since the recommendation is so relevant and would legitimately fix their problem, we get high conversion rates. As you can imagine, PGAI has been a great lead source and is growing.
On the PR front we’ve had continued success by getting mentions/features on New York Times, Thrive Global, Daily Herald, Workable.com and many podcasts. We typically get our PR opportunities via HARO, email outreach, and press release push. We have seen an increase in traffic due to these stories getting traction initially and ongoing traffic from the external links.
Thanks to the optimization of our current marketing channels, adding new products and adding new marketing channels, we’ve seen a YoY increase in sellable leads of 121% last month.
What have been your biggest lessons learned in the last year?
The biggest blocker of growth that we were able to overcome towards the end of 2019 was the proficiency of our Engineering team. They had worked on PubGuru for over 3 years and were spinning their tires on getting the product to be reliable, easy to use, and impactful for ad monetized publishers.
Our Engineering team was not communicating effectively. They were far from the user and had little user empathy. Accountability was low and ownership over user outcomes was non-existent. The team was focusing on inputs rather than outputs or even outcomes. There needed to be a major mind shift! While we strongly believe in the power of working remotely, there are still times when it’s best to get the team together in-person to get things sorted.
In September 2019, we gathered most of our Engineering team in the Republic of Georgia for a week. We needed to achieve this mind shift in one week and get all the engineers on the same page with the vision of the company.
The team battled through long hours of important discussions, workshops, a hackathon, and a heck of a lot of fun activities. I’m proud to say the team rallied together, gained a new level of comraderie, and were finally communicating effectively. The retreat created a strong cultural glue within the Engineering department and got them on the same page with the executives.
When everyone got back home, the momentum continued. They were able to achieve the three PubGuru reliability OKRs so that we could successfully launch our platform. That launch spurred some major growth where we hit all-time monthly revenue highs. Our sales conversions increased and churn percentage decreased which led to unprecedented net growth.
What’s in the plans for the upcoming year, and the next 5 years?
We plan to bolster our momentum from last year despite this pandemic with the following short-term goals:
- Release a new version of price flooring tool driven by machine learning to boos publisher revenues
- Enable profit attribution so publishers can measure the ROI of each of their traffic sources
- Make PubGuru (PG) the only independent ad tech platform to offer smart notifications for pubs by releasing it from beta
- Add split-tester tool to enable non-devs to test MonetizeMore against competitors or their in-house setup
- Partner with competitors to enable them to use Traffic Cop to screen their publisher leads and offer it to their publisher partners
- Perfect our customizable big data sandbox solution (Enterprise Analytics) in beta and only release once consistent positive impact has been achieved
- Become the #1 sell-side ad tech partner in LATAM
- Acquire 2 large publisher networks
- Release 3 more schools within PubGuru University
- Achieve 5,000 PGAI downloads
Five years from now, we intend to achieve a 10% market share of the top 1000 ad monetized publishers in the World. To do this, we plan to:
- Release ad layout optimization tool
- Have all data accessible via API
- Sell Enterprise Analytics to 100 enterprise publishers
- Grow internal publisher portfolio to 20
- Offer PubGuru University as a re-seller program
- Make Traffic Cop compatible with Supply Side Platforms and Demand Side Platforms
- Make PGAI the #1 ad tech sell-side Extension in the Chrome Store
Have you read any good books in the last year?
User Story Mapping was the most impactful book I read since our last update. It was the fuel that led to the mind shift that needed to happen with our Engineering team. It led us to switch from building big projects as silos to iterate projects into small pieces and to get as much feedback during the process as possible. It doesn’t matter how fast you’re going if you’re going in the wrong direction.
The book also helped our Engineering team gain user empathy and to focus on user outcomes rather than their inputs. The book was a big driver in improving team communication. It helped the team members ask more insightful questions in the planning process and to get opinions from users and user stakeholders.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who might be struggling to grow their business?
I would advise other entrepreneurs to hire for propensity and train for competency. You can train skills but it’s more difficult to train a good attitude. Try to find candidates that value constant improvement. Choose those that do it in their personal lives too. It might be attractive to hire an experienced candidate that has a lot of skills, however, if they don’t continue to improve they will be surpassed by the candidates that consistently improve. It’s much better to hire those that have positive trajectories rather than stale trajectories.
Don’t underestimate effective communicators. I’m sure you’ve heard this before so I’m going to be more specific. We made the mistake to value technical proficiency over communication ability and habits. It hurt us in the long-term. Even engineering has a lot of necessary communication and if there is a lack of communication, projects get delayed and suffer quality-wise. It’s important to hire team members that proactively communicate before things snowball. Hire team members that ask insightful questions. You should lean towards over-communicating vs. under communicating because the latter can be so much more damaging.
If you have or want to build a team, do them a favor and build them a purpose-driven culture. If you don’t, your company will create its own culture and those unintended cultural aspects ruin companies before it’s too late to fix. Start by writing it down on a document and share it with your team. Invite them to collaborate so they’ll buy-in and become an advocate of your intended culture. It’ll take time but the momentum you’ll build will be unstoppable.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
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