Trent Silver is a perfect example of someone who took on the industry and became wealthy and famous in the industry within only a few years. While there are tons of guys who talk about how to become rich in performance and affiliate marketing, he’s one of the few that actually did it and have built several businesses around what he’s learned. He’s become known as the Cash-For-Gold king, but has also expanded his business to include tons of verticals. We were fortunate to talk to him about his perception of the industry and found that he’s very critical of what is being taught in the industry, and most interestingly thinks that affiliates generally have it all wrong. For a guy who is only 21 years old, he dislikes all the flash in the industry and is really taking on all the fakes he see’s walking around the conventions.
He just recently opened Capstone Leads to drive a bunch of his offers, and we felt it was time to see what he is doing.
How did you originally get started in this industry?
When I got started a little over two years ago at eighteen years old, I didn’t even realize I was getting into direct response marketing. I thought I was just building a mail-in cash for gold business, essentially just a gold buyer. It wasn’t until later when I realized I had to learn the art of balancing my lead generation costs with my direct-mail return rate (returned gold packs) that I realized not only did I have to get the best leads possible, but also at the lowest rate I could. I started optimizing my ads, split testing, looking for ways to bring my CPA down with upsells, data monetization with email list managers and call centers. This was my advantage which allowed me to turn my first real campaign of $18,000 into over $160,000 in refined gold – I began approaching it from the standpoint of a marketer who happened to be operating a gold business, rather than a gold buyer who was trying to market. That is what allowed me to take over an entire industry in under two years with Goldster and Prestige Gold Buyers.
You’re known mainly for your Cash for Gold vertical, have been named the “Cash for Gold King” in the last year. What do affiliates need to know in getting into this vertical?
Affiliates, you have to be careful who you work with in this vertical. It takes 8-12 weeks for a gold buyer to determine their conversion return rate of your leads into gold packs to their facility. If this return rate is low, you can bet that it’s going to cause problems in your payment for leads. It’s best for the affiliate to have a vested interest in these deals, take a smaller CPA up front and ask a direct gold buying advertiser for a revenue share of their returned gold packs. Leverage the quality of your traffic – the best gold buyers have an average returned package of $1,000. There are really only a few legitimate gold buyers still around that can still manage an affiliate program. I’d be more than happy to make the introductions directly.
What do you think is the most exciting upcoming vertical right now and why?
I happen to be in the upcoming vertical, so I can’t give this away But I can suggest choosing a mass market with a mass desire (no limit on upside) rather than a small niche. Something you can passionately market across all channels – Internet (Affiliate networks, Mobile, SEO, Contextual, Display, Email), radio, television, direct mail, telemarketing and even word of mouth (something many short-sighted marketers never consider)
Payday loans seem to be picking up. If any affiliate wants to run these, how should they know if they are legit? What is the best way to run them?
There are really only a handful of aggregates (networks) where you can pick up payday offers that you can be sure you’re getting paid what you deserve for your leads and that your data isn’t being destroyed. Those are Capstone Leads (mine), T3 Leads, PartnerWeekly and LeadFlash. I recommend a split-test of all four. My friend Chelsea Peters at Commission Edge also has some neat offers for payday. We’ve all got many of the same lenders, but my main selling point is I offer lifetime profit-share of the revenue generated from affiliate data whether its from decline upsells or complementary cross-sells if they choose to let us manage their data. For payday, email traffic and SEO work great. Lately I’ve been building out hot transfer call center campaigns that have been doing very well.
What strategy would you recommend a newbie affiliate concentrate on if they wanted to become independently wealthy within the next two years?
I’ll probably upset some people for this, but I recommend they get out of the “affiliate” mindset and think more of owning a real business where they are their own “affiliate.” I don’t drive traffic or generate leads for any offers other than those that I own. I’ve advertised on the radio, Internet channels (internal campaigns, affiliate networks, direct publishers), direct mail and call centers, all either pushing my own offers or monetizing my data with complementary offers (that I also own). To demonstrate, I have an affiliate network called Capstone Leads that specializes in payday loans/cash advances, cash for gold, cash for electronics and auto title loans. So not only am I pushing traffic to my own offers, but on the exit pages and thank you pages I’m upselling my three other businesses. At the end of the day, not only did I make money driving leads, but I’ve got ownership in something of real value and a customer base that keeps coming back to either take advantage of referral cash or for more of our financial products. So to sum it up, rather than create a mono-line business, create three or four that complement each other and add more value to the consumer. That will increase the bottom-line.
You’ve mentioned to me that you’ve built a real business, not just running something in mom’s basement. How important is it that someone learn to build a business and what skills do they need to learn?
This is probably the number one thing that separates the guys that make 7-8 figures a year from those that make it look like they’re rich by posting exotic cars and flashing $100 bills on Facebook. It’s very easy to run someone else’s offer for a few days and make some quick cash, a lot like gambling at the casino. It’s a whole different story to set up a fulfillment center, a customer service center, design top-knotch landing pages, generate traffic/leads and on top of that, scale it to 7 figures and beyond. There really is no secret to business, it sounds cliché but you have to “just do it.” I don’t care how smart you are, how many business plans you develop, how many sick business cards you have or fancy offices you rent, if you don’t just take action you’ll have no shot at success.
What advice do you have to give to young men wanting to enter the industry?
Naturally a lot of guys in this industry are going to be young, most under 30. This is simply because the Internet is still young. So a lot of these “new money” guys make their first $100,000 and become somebody they’re not. All of the sudden, they get to go to four trade-shows during the year and go from being a nobody in their hometown to walking around trades-hows with Gucci scarves, Louis Vuitton Shoes, cheap diamonds, ridiculous haircuts and girls they pay to hang around them. It becomes a popularity contest rather than a place to build traffic sources and make deals. It’s a joke. Make a lot of money and put it in the bank. Buy a nice house and a nice car and allocate a budget for how many bottles of Ace of Spades you’re going to buy every month. There’s no need to blow everything you make. Be yourself and the right girls will like you for who you are. On the business side, take care of your customers. I learned the hard way that customer service really is everything, especially in an industry where you are dealing in consumer financial services. If consumers feel like it’s hard to reach you and your communication with them is poor, you bet you’re going to get complaints to the BBB, AG, FTC. And to be honest, it’s to be deserved. Take care of your customers!!!
What would you like to see change about the industry?
I think shaving of leads has become a serious problem and is slowly killing the industry. At some point affiliates are going to get smart and just launch their own businesses and offers…at least they won’t have any chance of their data being shaved and at the end of the day, they can own something they’re proud of, rather than just run someone else’s offer while being taken advantage of. The deceptive marketing practices also have to stop, it makes it hard for legitimate advertisers to compete, and brings unwanted attention and regulation from agencies to the entire industry.
Who are three people that you highly respect in the industry and why? What can the industry learn from them?
Chris Cain of Blackfin Media Group, one of my dear friends and business partners. Chris owns an affiliate network called CommissionGateway.com, a Coreg platform, and he’s also a mailer and he is honest to a fault. His business ventures are pretty well diversified outside of the world of Internet marketing…you wouldn’t see Donald Trump just running affiliate offers if he were in this industry.
Rick del Rio of LimeLight CRM, one of my best friends and we’re practically neighbors. He taught me a lot of what I know about marketing and building a business. Rick adds more value to his clients than anyone I have ever met in business. He sets a high barrier to entry at over $800/month, giving him the luxury to practically hand-pick the best marketers in the world to work with. Build a business that adds real value, whether its B2B or B2C.
What is your dream car?
Well, I’ve had leased BMWs since I was sixteen years old, but my current lease is set to expire in about two months…I’ll either get a Bentley GT or a Lamborghini Gallardo (I made a $4,000 bet with my best friend before he died, Tampa legend and icon Ernie Haire III that I could get a Lamborghini in six months. I lost the bet so I want to get one now and put his initials EBH III on the license plate.) I’ll also get a really crappy car, something really old and beat up to pick girls up on the first date, make sure they actually like me for ME, and then surprise them on future dates in the nice car.