Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hello! My name is Trey Christensen and alongside Cody Reese, we started a business called Vast or most commonly known as VastGG. In 2017, we began offering our marketing services in the form of social and viral giveaways. Using a bit of growth hacking, we developed a way to grow a client's following in the gaming and esports industries.
Our product is professionally structured and curated gaming giveaway campaigns that gather an extreme amount of attention and growth on social media. We can drive traction for website traffic, obtain app or game downloads, grow socials, and develop subscribers for an email newsletter.
Cody, previously working at Rogue (the esports organization), and myself coming from a professional background in the Halo franchise on Xbox, were already heavily into gaming. This passion led us to travel to conventions and connect with well-known individuals in the industry. As they say, “it’s who you know not what you know” or something like that.
We run campaigns for clients such as Ninja, Sodapoppin, NRG, Luminosity, Streamlabs, and many more.
We never thought Vast would be anything other than a side hustle. However, we have now grown the business into a large-scale giveaway marketing agency with over 2,000,000 followers across our socials, 1,950,000 subscribers to our giveaway newsletter, and are generating over $30k in revenue per month.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
My background started without any plan for a future or career in gaming. I was a passionate player at first aiming to only compete and make a name for myself on stage playing Halo. In 2007, I heard about MLG tournaments where players around the United States would compete against one another for BIG MONEY (at that time), a $20,000 grand prize split between four players. I didn’t care much for the money but more so for the glory and personal achievement of being one of the best. So, I dove in headfirst and began traveling around the country to every tournament I could, Denver, Columbus, Dallas, Raleigh, Orlando, Anaheim, and many more. I was addicted to competing and loved to travel.
By 2011, I had achieved the professional status I was aiming for and finally earned the title of professional Halo player with Major League Gaming. These were the early days of what is now known as esports and I was building lifelong relationships with people that would also carve out a career in the industry. Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, Nicholas “Nickmercs” Kolcheff, Tom “T2” Taylor, and Eric “Ghostayame” Hewitt are just a few worth mentioning.
Video of Raleigh 2011 beating Str8 Rippin for our pro status:
Fast forward to 2016, Cody was running social media for Rogue, the esports organization, and was extremely in tune with Twitch culture and the influencers in the industry. He had developed a solid process for gaming giveaways and I had noticed it was going to be something worth building. I approached him with the idea to start our own company and amplify these giveaway campaigns through our own agency presence.
The act of showing up to anything and everything in the industry that you want to grow in will produce connections and results, even if it takes years.
In 2017, we launched Vast and began running giveaway campaigns for some of the top influencers and brands in the space. At this early stage, we were offering our services entirely free to build up our case studies and brand trust. One of the first individuals we approached was Tyler “Ninja” Blevins at TwitchCon 2017.
In 2017, we launched Vast. I had a little over $700 in my savings and decided to commit to using it for the E3 convention. Cody and I agreed that we had to show up in person and build every connection possible to make this business a reality. So, that’s what we did. One of the first individuals we approached was Tyler “Ninja” Blevins at TwitchCon 2017. This was before his explosive growth and true come-up story alongside Fortnite. To our surprise, he decided to trust us with running his giveaway campaigns and show him the value we could provide.
Over the next few years, we traveled to every gaming convention possible, met with amazing clients, and offered our services to help bring our clients to the masses. I wouldn’t say we possessed any expertise or skill sets that would have qualified us to lead this business on paper. However, we were persistent and extremely bullheaded to make this a successful business. We had the connections, experience in esports, and the passion to stay focused on the goal at hand. This is what truly made the business a reality.
Take us through the process of creating a successful giveaway
To create a successful giveaway we begin by sending the client a launch form. The client will fill out the launch form with the socials they’d like to target for growth and other KPIs such as growing their email newsletter, additional website traffic, or downloads/installs for their app. Next, we structure the campaign actions and create the graphics. We then share these with the client and schedule a launch date. For the launch date, we have a specific order and process for the copy of each post. Certain time periods are best to launch.
When it comes to giveaways in the gaming space, they are very common and easily adopted as a marketing tool.
Everyone wants to upgrade their PC, headset, mouse, keyboard, or gaming setup entirely regularly. So, the product was already popular. What we knew is that companies and influencers weren’t treating their giveaways as valuable marketing campaigns. We knew that if we put organic and traditional marketing strategies behind a giveaway campaign, it could truly “blow up.”
First, we knew we had to have active socials, so we created social media accounts that advertised all the campaigns we were managing. Second, we had to have a website or singular place where people could find the collection of active giveaways and ones that had even ended. This gave us a resume for clients to reference quickly and begin to develop trust.
Lastly, we understood that giveaways were perceived at times as cheesy marketing, untrustworthy, or pain to fulfill. To squash these doubts in the market, we took full responsibility for prizing for all our clients, began sharing proof of all winners receiving their prizing, and stayed consistent with reassuring our new followers that there was hope to one day become a winner. Over time, this grew our brand recognition and trustworthiness for giveaways being hosted through Vast.
Recent proof from a #VastWinner (This hashtag can be searched on Twitter to find more winners);
Largest Giveaway with Ninja:
Largest Prize we gave away in 2018:
How did you turn those early giveaways into a legit business?.
For us, there was no official launch. We knew that we couldn’t just put together an “agency” and begin charging top-notch prices.
Most of our business early on came from offering our services for free as a proof of concept and gave us the ability to build up our case studies. We definitely had existing relationships from being in the esports industry but most of our processes had never been used before. We started with smaller giveaways such as in-game skins, controllers, and cash giveaways then showed the return to partners. From there, we convinced them to run larger prizes which garnered noticeable results. This allowed us to begin having new prospects reaching out to work with us and asking what we charged to provide such a service. Once we proved the results and had a few paying clients, we were able to convert some recurring pro bono clients to paying clients and increase our overall value. This entire process took about 2 years before we were what I would define as established.
Being fully transparent, we didn’t start our business with any funds. Both Cody and myself were keeping our bills low and hustling 12 hours a day for Vast. We hypothesized that if we put in the work, made the connections, and aimed to improve our client experience then we would develop a strong business in the long term. I would say the most significant way we grew was being flexible on our pricing within the first two years and being fully invested in the success of our client’s products or businesses. Their success is our success.
To date, we have not raised a single dollar for the business and are developing our own platform that will launch within the next six months. We were scrappy and resourceful with our income and found a way to reinvest our profits back into the business. Very excited about what is next for Vast!
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
The most successful strategy we have come across is guerilla marketing and outreach. We personally email direct messages or contact each of our prospective clients and influencers that we work with. It takes a ton of time to research and vet potential leads but always pays off in the long run as it allows us to show up on prospects' radar as a new avenue of marketing. This process has been the foundation of our business and sales strategy to grow revenue year over year.
For client retention, we focus on long-term contracts that cater to the other marketing elements they have planned such as influencers marketing, paid media, or organic updates. Offering long-term pricing allows us to fit into a client’s overall marketing budget more effectively while ensuring we build a consistent strategy to achieve a client’s KPIs.
We currently have about 200,000 unique visitors to our site monthly, a total social following of over 2,000,000, and an email list that is over 1,950,000. Here are some stats from our website traffic and Twitter engagement in May 2021:
Lastly, below is a massive campaign that is currently live. This was featured to over 400,000 live viewers on Twitch for the game Warframe. The link in the stream title takes the viewers to the giveaway.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
Vast is currently entirely profitable and has been since its inception. Vast overall revenue has increased 35% YoY with our email marketing list increasing 190% YoY. Vast has raised no venture capital or taken on an outside investment of any kind. Everything we do to generate growth and increase revenue is organic, either through organic marketing campaigns or cold outreach.
Our focus is entirely on building and launching a successful platform by the end of 2021. We are locked in and ready to double down on our success with this exciting next step!
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
At times I felt as though a mentor would come along and be able to help me answer the questions I had about running a successful business or this mentor would help me make the hard decisions that needed to be made.
However, I realized the only person you can turn to is the individuals you have chosen to tackle this venture with you. We made a lot of very poor and hasty decisions BUT with a ton of persistence and willpower, we made more good decisions than bad.
Essentially, our good decisions outweighed the bad and allowed us to continue thriving. You are your own motivation at the end of the day.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use the following:
Google Analytics: Track website traffic and analytics
Heropost: social scheduling tool
Gleam: this is our main marketing tool for structuring and running our giveaway campaigns
PayPal: best for quick and easy payments for clients
Typeform: best for surveys and gathering client onboarding information
rebrandly: best for tracking click data
Notion: best for tracking progress and company projects
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
A few rules I have for starting any business:
1. Show up. The act of showing up to anything and everything in the industry that you want to grow in will produce connections and results, even if it takes years.
Execute. Many people are “talkers” and love the dopamine high of saying what they are “gonna do.” Don’t talk so much, just do. Progress comes from action, not talking about action.
Be relentless. Don’t give up. Some goals can take 10 years. Time is a destination. Put a plan together to “drive across the country.'' Look at your goals as a road trip, flat tires, fun times, and a ton of experience. Don’t give up on your destination.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are always looking for qualified salespeople that are interested in gaming and esports. We are not currently looking for any specific position. However, we have grown our team significantly over the past few years with people passionate about Vast.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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