We Built A $44M/Year Customer Acquisition Agency

Ronen Hamatian
Founder, Madrivo
$3.7M
revenue/mo
Founders
47
Employees
Madrivo
from Las Vegas, NV, USA
started November 2001
$3,699,632
revenue/mo
Founders
47
Employees
233K
alexa rank
336
followers
7.5K
followers
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We Built A $44M/Year Customer Acquisition Agency

Hello! Who are you, and what business did you start?

Hello, I’m Ronen Hamatian, CEO of Madrivo — a performance marketing and customer acquisition agency.

We help national brands acquire new customers by managing their performance ad spend through a range of performance marketing channels, including our flagship channel: performance email. Through email, we help our brand partners market their offers to a larger, qualified and often untapped audience. And we do all this on a performance basis, meaning we are only paid for leads or sales that our partners deem qualified.

Using this fair and profitable business model, we’ve been in business for over ten years, recognized as an Inc 5000 company twice (including 2020), and helped dozens of leading household US brands including businesses like PostMates, Dollar Shave Club, ADT, and more grow their business with better ROAS.

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

After serving in the Israeli military, I moved from the holy land (Jerusalem) to sin city (Las Vegas, Nevada) to pursue the American dream.

I began that dream by entering the wholesale lending industry and building a net branch that funded over 500 home loans annually. But something was missing, and I felt called to do something bigger. Additionally, the financial crisis of 2008 was coming, and I could see it about a year and a half before it hit. So in 2006, I leaned into my curiosity, elevated my career, and switched to the rapidly growing industry of online advertising.

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Why online advertising? While working in the mortgage industry, I often wondered how mortgage leads were produced — where did the lead lists come from, and how were these names and emails gathered? I was fascinated by the idea of pulling back the curtain on lead generation techniques, advertising strategies, and online sales. So, I co-founded an agency called Millionaire Network.

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As my knowledge of online advertising and Millionaire Network grew, I had the opportunity to partner with Madrivo, a new company started by my old trusted colleagues from the advertising space. As a result, we blended our respective skill sets into one — transforming Madrivo into the end-to-end source for our brand partners by generating quality leads, understanding the customer lifecycle, supplying high-intent consumers, and becoming indispensable for some of the largest brands in the US.

From there, the rest is history.

Take us through the process of building Madrivo.

When working in the wholesale lending industry, my peers hated lead lists, but they kept buying them. Maybe 20% of those leads were worthwhile, but my industry colleagues continued buying the leads for the small percentage that would convert. I realized that this service could use major improvements with better lead quality and compliance. And it was a huge need and a void for mortgage lenders and, inherently, most B2C national businesses.

When you put profit first, it may make sense for the short term and the bottom line, but it will hinder your business’s long-term growth. People are the heart of everything, and when you put people first, you can grow and provide more value, which will always lead to more value.

As an email publisher, Madrivo started by working with existing agencies to monetize our list of engaged readers, but we frequently ran into offers that didn’t live up to our standards and core values. These offers hindered users from making the best decisions and resulted in negative buying experiences. It was an abuse of performance marketing, and we didn’t want to succeed that way.

So we pivoted. We started our network and began to source brands directly, focusing on brands and offers that we’d be proud to show our grandparents or kids. Products and services that improved customers’ lives and provided great buying experiences. By sourcing brands ourselves and owning the network, we were able to put the right offers, provided by the right brands, in the hands of the right consumers.

Soon our brand partners loved the leads we provided, and the consumers were engaging, paying, and sticking around. Next, we noticed that our brands were giving us good payouts, budgets, and terms — and we thought we could translate it to a lot of value to other email publishers who have the same quality and compliance standards as ours. From there, we’ve held to our standards and values, becoming first a network, then an agency, and now doing it beyond just email marketing but across many channels. We’ve extended into search, native, social, path, and several other offer channels, each while maintaining our stellar credibility for significant traffic and leads.

As the natural next stage in our evolution, we’re developing internal brands that take the buying experience to the next level. This Owned and Operated line of business allows us to go deeper in the consumer lifecycle and serve quality, high-intent leads on a platter to our brand partners.

Describe the process of launching the business and landing your first clients.

Like launching any business, Madrivo’s launch was full of the typical start-up excitement. It was full of high-speed pivots, moving through various unknowns, enormous challenges, quick scaling, and a lot of quick, often, and fast failures.

But it has always been an intelligent business — we started with a service already in high demand. Brands and publishers wanted quality email traffic and lead, and we had an exclusive inventory in high demand from day one. We didn’t have a typical startup model, we began with a model guaranteed to work, and we have continued to refine and improve on it ever since.

An example of success in our earlier days was working with one of our clients in the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP). HARP acted as a source of mortgage relief for consumers and when they worked with us, we were able to generate over 100,000 engaged consumers in the first 30 days. Over 13,000 customers refinanced their homes with Madrivo’s help, receiving either a better rate or term in the process.

Our innovative service, business model, and scalability are only half the story, though. The other half of a healthy company is the culture, the values, the standards, the purpose, and the people. One of our founders, Kyle, wholly-owned and embodied that side of our company’s growth. He made us feel comfortable in the workplace. He never judged anyone — he set the culture and truly cared about each member of our team and their wellbeing.

When Kyle passed away, we each felt his absence. And while each of us knows and understands that people are an organization’s biggest asset, his passing left a significant gap in such an important area. Our biggest worry was that we would lose that. Luckily, we’ve been able to honor Kyle and preserve his memory by continuing to embody our core values (which he was crucial to helping create), lean into the excellent culture already set, and honor our people above everything else.

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

Simply put, our unique and exclusive value proposition and our incredible team.

In a performance model, we’re paid when we help our partners acquire quality leads or sales. This means that we are a low-risk and high-reward option for our clients. With our variety of performance marketing services, we can help them scale to gain quality new consumers across various channels at any time. As a result, we provide a cost-effective ad spend solution while delivering consumers with high lifetime value, which translates to great ROAS while maintaining our advertiser’s brand reputation and integrity. Coupled with our innovative team of experts, we ensure our advertising brands experience the best service, marketing, and customer acquisition solutions available.

One of our top consumer acquisition channels is email marketing. We have exclusive partnerships with three of the world's largest email publishers, giving us the ability to scale performance email marketing with hundreds of data points to help our brand partners connect with the right audience at the right time. We also offer performance-based services in mobile, native, search, social, and display.

We have several long-term clients and case studies that showcase how we’ve been able to help national brands acquire new customers profitably in a sustainable, repeatable, and scalable way. Through client-testimonials, word of mouth, networking, and content marketing, we’ve been able to grow Madrivo’s revenue by more than 72% in the last three years.

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

I’d say we’re doing very well as a business today. We had a record year in 2020 and just had our best performing month in the company’s history. More importantly, I’m very proud of my team of incredible people who, together, have the potential to transform the performance marketing industry completely.

We’re very much a goal-oriented company, and as we look to the future, my team is running on all cylinders. We have committed to goals that expand our performance marketing services to new channels, grow the Madrivo team to scale our services, and continue to improve our client’s experience with our platforms and campaigns.

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

The most helpful thing I’ve learned is to put people first. Whether it’s our employees, clients, affiliates, vendors, or the end consumer, we aim to impact the world positively — and that’s not possible without people. Success doesn’t come from another sale — it comes from how you treat others.

Stop talking about it and jump in. Stop the “what if” mindset and go for it. So many of my biggest successes in life were right after my biggest failures. So don’t be afraid to fail.

One mistake I see many businesses make is that they don’t think long-term and fall into the profit paradox. When you put profit first, it may make sense for the short term and the bottom line, but it will hinder your business’s long-term growth. People are the heart of everything, and when you put people first, you can grow and provide more value, which will always lead to more value.

Additionally, I was warned that partnerships were doomed to fail and to stay as far away as possible. However, our Madrivo team is the ultimate example of a great partnership and has been crucial to our business success. Look for business partners who complement and align with you. Find partners and team members who are strong in your weaknesses, and don’t be afraid to be authentic and insist on positive conflicts that make everyone better. Finding a business partner is every bit as important as finding a spouse, and if you treat them with that mutual respect, it will work out.

What platform/tools do you use for your business?

Our proprietary platform, Techtelligence, is the central hub of our internal communication flow and empowers the team to make better decisions based on data analytics, machine learning, and AI. It also automates and streamlines brand partners’ onboarding, ROAS tracking optimization analytics, and yield maximization for our publishers. Our latest development is a module that matches consumers with brands based on a complex backend logic.

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

One of the most influential books I’ve had the pleasure to read is The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz. I appreciated how he detailed what happens when things don’t go as planned, how to navigate and make the hard decisions (even when they aren’t popular), and how to align your team and get them to commit to your growth goals.

Another one of the most life-changing resources I can recommend is to be a part of a group like YPO or Vistage. I belonged to Vistage for five years and am currently in YPO, and I can proudly say that those groups have changed so much for me. It’s hard to find people going through the same ebb and flow in life as you are — both as a CEO and in life. My time in these groups has been invaluable, and they’ve helped me align with my purpose, introduced more meaning into my day, and helped me see my impact in Madrivo.

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

Stop talking about it and jump in. Stop the “what if” mindset and go for it. So many of my biggest successes in life were right after my biggest failures. So don’t be afraid to fail.

Don’t get lost in planning or suffer from analysis paralysis. Instead, jump in, fail often, learn fast, adapt, improve and try again. Waiting for the “right conditions” doesn’t make it easier. And don’t worry, most of us aren’t dealing with life-threatening decisions, so get the courage and go for it!

Also, surround yourself with people who don’t retribute you for failing and empower you to be the best version of yourself. This will help you to make decisions based on viable and actual feedback as opposed to assumptions.

Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?

Yes, we have aggressive growth goals and new lines of business that represent the colossal potential to increase our impact on the performance space. You can find all of our open positions on our site, and feel free to reach out if you know of someone who would be a good fit!

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Where can we go to learn more?

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Ronen Hamatian   Founder of Madrivo
Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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