I am pleased to post below my interview with Declan Dunn, founder of Dunn Direct Media. Declan is recognized worldwide for his development of social networks and new media since 1995, along with his place as a pioneer in performance and affiliate marketing. This unusual mixture gives him the ability to bring people together, build relationships, and monetize them using specific processes he has developed since the beginning. That being said, let’s get started shall we:
1) Q: Great Declan. Let’s get right into the questions. Could you start off by telling us a little bit about yourself and Dunn Direct Media?
A: Dunn Direct Media provides New Media publishing and strategies to small businesses. We show people how to use audio, video, and viral marketing to promote their books, products, and services, mixed with tested, proven methods of building emails lists and community.
New Media means the integration of social and mobile worlds with the traditional world of Internet marketing driven by clicks and impressions. The new world is driven by much more than just the old way of business, and we help businesses leverage this through a 3 step process to Integrate their business with social and mobile, Customize the platforms and strategy that would best benefit them and is doable, and Monetize, driving traffic and sales.
2) Q: What made you decide to pursue a career in social media marketing? What are some of your recognizable achievements?
A: I’ve been doing this business since 1994, and what drives me since the beginning is the power of the Internet to connect us all and unleash businesses in new ways. As a lifelong entrepreneur, I love sharing and showing people how to direct their energies correctly, instead of scattering around various tactics like social, SEO, and email marketing. Tactics are ok, but without a strategy they rarely lead to success.
As far as achievements, I’ve worked on 21 projects with startups that have generated 7 figures, built huge email lists in the millions with viral marketing strategies, ran my own agency that pioneered affiliate programs for small businesses and even companies as big as American Express, generated sites getting 60 million visitors a month, and helped many businesses reach their exit goals of being acquired. What I’m most proud of is the educational work I’ve done, which is where I learned social media through user generated content and guiding a community to share information about a historical subject worldwide. Adobe gave us the Social Impact in Media award, with no pitching by us at all against major schools worldwide, because the system to engage and direct people to achieve their goals via social media allowed us to help launch a major museum online, which reaches millions of students each year for the last 15 years. It is truly a social experiment and teaches me so much that I apply to the business world, and is what I’m most proud of….
3) Q: How does your previous experience in multimedia and design influence the way you do business?
A: Everything I do begins with the audience, instead of my own idea. Multimedia is a way to communicate and to get an audience interested – whether that is a general target audience in business, or a client I am working with — requires a mix of visual and written materials to clearly spell things out and give people clear directions. With these directions, they can move worlds, and what I learned early on is that whatever your idea is, be sure you test it on your audience and be open to let them direct you to the best way to execute. The audience is the true genius and when they participate and own what you are doing, they love it and pass it one.
I call what we are doing “Speaking in Multimedia”, because we need to communicate beyond the constraints of the written word, and move into audio, visual, and graphic designs. You see it in Facebook, where ads are based more on visuals than copy, and you see it in the New Media ADD of audiences, rushing through things. I use video to get them to stop, consider, and believe it or not, read, which leads to higher activity than old school Internet marketing which seeks to interrupt their experience.
The audience is in control and once you learn that multimedia principle, there is no limits, because you go beyond your own ego and ideas and unleash the power of viral, the power of the audience. That’s the way I do business.
4) Q: You have a tagline “How to turn friends into fans and customers”, can you tell me about it, how it came to be?
A: This has been part of my research since 2007, when I noticed that the old marketing game of clicks and impressions, driven primarily by Google and affiliate programs in my case, was shifting into something new. Marketing speak was turning people off, because in a social world, they are not looking primarily for solutions to their problems, they are looking to connect and communicate with other people.
The old world of the Internet, which isn’t gone but is being commoditized by social media, was focused on people, alone, in front of computers. Think of it, you look up pictures of people interacting with computers, and they are confused, angry, and thinking about problems, what I call driven by pain. They are looking, researching, and problem driven.
The new social world finds people connecting, with mobile devices and iPads, looking for pleasure, for fun, and coming out with marketing speak in that world, where we usually meet them, is suicide. So the approach became clear, you have to first have the intention, and marketing voice, to treat them as “friends”, not literally friends you meet but in a friendly tone that engages them, opens them up to discover more, and connects them to like minded people.
This world is measured by referrals, influence on the social graph, and viral marketing, getting people to spread the word.
You then drive them to be fans – usually meaning away from the social world and into either email registration, or repeat visits to your web site. Here you are separating the general interest of social media and finding the first separation from the pack, what I like to call taking the 20% who are really interested and finding a way to keep in touch with them.
These fans are then brought into the traditional Internet marketing world driven by clicks and impressions, and conversion to customers. It is a 3 step process in marketing that is part traditional – giving people a no sales first contact – and partly recognizing the creative destruction that social media is enacting on all business. It also incorporates storytelling, narrative, and gaming mechanics to set up rewards and steps that allow people to state their interest, and target your marketing to those who are really going to become customers, rather than blasting people in social media with a marketing message they are not prepared for…after all, would you start pitching a friend, or engage them, find out if they are interested, THEN market to them?
5) Q: What’s the advantage of your service versus some other so called “gurus”?
A: Mine comes from a diversity of experience as a long time author promoting my own books, running a powerful digital marketing agency that pioneered many methods, and through the extreme care and guidance we give to our audience. My Master’s degree is in Instructional Technology, which also means I’ve learned how to teach and teach others to apply these lessons and customize them for their own business.
Gurus right now sell tactics, one offs and pitches that get people ping ponging around, which leads to failure. My goal is to make you the guru of your own business, build your own style, and customize it to what you can do, instead of testing everything out there.
The advantage is in results and saved time; most people waste 6-12 months studying the old way, reading other people’s work and looking for that Internet lottery ticket, the winning solution provided by a guru. I guide people through learning by doing, applying what they are learning to what they love, what they actually can do (not everyone can be an SEO geek, or an email marketer, there are skill sets we defined and refine), and learning how to do this within a budget so they can grow a long term business.
We build long term solutions, not get rich quick schemes doomed to fail because the person cannot copy what another does, you have to do it your own way, and over the many years in this business, I’ve helped thousands of people to do this…it is my passion.
6) What’s been your biggest challenge in running this company?
A: Starting it from scratch and being too ahead of the market; we were teaching blogging in 2005, podcasting in 2006, and just recently these have come to the forefront, while we are focusing on integrating mobile into our client’s budgets. Many people want to buy things that have been done by many, rather than getting into a market early. The biggest challenge is showing them that this is NOT visionary, it is smart business developed by people who merge the new with the traditional.
Luckily there are enough people out there who don’t just want to follow and mimic others, but want to build real businesses.
7) Q: Tell me of a couple of trends you see happening in this industry and how we as affiliates can position ourselves to take advantage of it.
A: The most obvious one is mobile, not just phones but the iPad/Honeycomb devices that are moving many from a world of personal computers to products that entertain, inform, and connect them. You simply cannot market the old way only, or you will lose out on the many different ways people use mobile devices. This is becoming a primary means of communication and is a GREAT place to start list building via apps and digital web sites. Reminds me of the early days of email, many will sit on the sidelines while others realize it’s not that difficult to build huge market share early, and this opportunity won’t be here in a few years.
Affiliate marketing is also undergoing a change; Super Affiliates pretty much run the business and have become 7, 8, and 9 figure companies, so competing at that level is crazy unless you have the funding and the brainpower. There is a niche element developing, where groups of people/businesses partner and work together for mutual growth, the true affiliate as partnership model. But it is not about everyone you can work with, it is about carefully choosing your partners and having as your goal long term partnerships, not just sales. The old days of churn and burn are dying in affiliate programs.
To position yourself for change, become that change; own your market by selecting your partners not just based on clicks and impressions, but with the intention of finding long term partners that drive ongoing results. We are growing up as a business and need to make sure that the old affiliate pitch is changed from how can we make money now, to how can we make money now, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow…
Finally, the impact of legislation on the affiliate world is radical, and many are looking to evolve to CPC and CPM driven models, because CPA is becoming a basis of taxation nationwide. Silly, but true…
8) Q: Now that we’ve got the tough questions out of the way, here are a few personal questions. What was your first, and what was your worst job?
A: First job was pumping gas, and I to this day know nothing about cars, but I could pump gas. Worst job was being the supervisor of a cheese ball making line for Hickory Farms one Christmas. I had low income folks who hated the job cutting 50 pound slabs of nasty cheese and hand sculpting them into little balls. To this day I can’t stand to see cheese balls, and one guy even pulled a knife on me because he thought I was the boss…and I remember telling him that if it was my destiny to die as the supervisor of a cheese ball manufacturer, than my life was pretty worthless…he cracked up and put the knife down – he was in pretty desperate financial straits and we actually became friensd later.
9) Q: What’s your favorite thing to do outside of social media consulting?
A: Teaching 6-12th graders online is one of my favorite hobbies, because they keep me learning what is new, what is changing, and how they see the world. Youth always drive change and today’s youth so understand the new media world, unlike many of us old timers, and I learn so much. I’m also getting into what might be called Japanese gardening, or xeriscaping, using natural materials and growing plants – something I’m really new at and frankly not that familiar wth…I love learning things I don’t know.
10) Q: And our final question: If you could offer one piece of advice to our readers as it comes to understanding and partaking in social media marketing, what would it be?
A: You are taking part in a new game, the New Media Game, which means first you must integrate your business and message into the existing audience who are already there, so don’t just jump in and start screaming about yourself. Consider it a giant room of people interested and looking, but not ready to buy, buy buy. Customize your approach so that the skills you have, and what you like to do, are incorporated – I see so many people trying to specialize in skills they either don’t have, or can’t outsource. Find what you do best and make sure to focus on that, on a few things, rather than trying to do everything. Finally, make sure that your social media marketing has ways to measure engagement, activity, and drives traffic to your business, not just Facebook or other social media sites. You have to monetize it in the end, and this should be your end goal that all your social media activity is measured in as a business.
Finally, Have Fun. Make Money. Do Good. Have fun at what you are doing or guaranteed, it won’t work. Make money with it, or else you have a time sucking hobby, which is fine for your heart, but not your business. And do good for yourself, and others. Doing good as an affiliate means that both sides profit, and doing good for yourself means taking time to appreciate that your business is based on your reputation, and if your intention is to do good by your partners, people will like to work with you. If your intention is to just make money, you won’t do good for yourself, or for others, because it’s about more than making money, it’s about building a solid business foundation for your life based on trust. Trust is the new currency.