Wednesday, August 27, 2014
How ConsumerTrack Has Created A Growing, Profitable--and Mostly Unknown Business
Story by Benjamin F. Kuo
In the Los Angeles startup world, there are lots of high profile, buzzy companies which have lots of attention and funding--but which haven't earned a dime of revenue. However, this town is also full of very profitable, growing, and revenue generating companies-- which have for the most part been below the radar. We spoke with one of those companies-- El Segundo-based ConsumerTrack (www.consumertrack.com)--which is a $30M, bootstrapped an online marketing company which is driving millions of customers to big name, financial customers. We caught up with CEO and co-founder Brett Rossmann to learn more about the company and how it's been able to grow, profitably, all without raising a dime of outside capital.
What is ConsumerTrack all about?
Brett Rossmann: ConsumerTrack is a performance-based, online marketing company. We generate thousands of new customers everyday for clients such as Ally Bank, GE Capital, Transunion, and a few other big brands. We have been growing, and profitable for the last ten years. We've also built a data driven platform, that allows us to drive millions of unique visitors to our network of sites every month, covering the banking, credit, and travel and vertical markets. You can take a look at our websites, such as GoBankingRates.com, and GoFreeCredit.om. We are also launching a travel portal later this fall, call RewardAndTravel.com.
What's the story behind the company?
Brett Rossmann: I started out in online marketing back in 1999, and met my business partner, Jeff Bartlett, in 2000. We had worked at another organization together in online marketing, and learned every aspect of the business, from closing new deals, on-boarding new clients, to building media plans. We worked together for four years, and I ended up heading up media buying at that company, and he headed up sales. We became friends, and found we were both very like minded, goal oriented, and had the same core values. We started looking at the landscape, and as I was getting my MBA at the time, ended up writing the business plan for ConsumerTrack. After looking at the landscape, we figured out that we might be able to build a company that was a little bigger and a little better by doing things different from the data driven aspect.
There's lots of technology development behind what you do - can you talk about that?Brett Rossmann: We have a platform we've built, and which we are constantly evolving called Magneto. It allow us to look at things, whip up websites quickly, when we want to take advantage of opportunistic media buys. We're able to track everything we're doing, and report back on it. That allows our media buying team an dour content team to make moves, to buy more inventory on the web, and drive more traffic on the website, with the whole goal of bringing in more consumers and acquiring more customers for our clients. We're a little different from most groups out there, in that we own and operate our own websites. That really allows us to control that whole flow and consumer path. That's one of the things we have going on with our platform. Plus, we have mobile optimized sites, and those are just scratching the surface now, there's a huge amount of growth potential with mobile traffic available today.
The world here is constantly changing -- particularly with shifts to mobile, Google algorithms, etc. - how does your company stay on top of all of that?
Brett Rossmann: We have got a great team, of very smart, very passionate people, who are very good at what they do. We are students of our company, and of our business, and of our industry. We are constantly learning, doing research, and networking with other entrepreneurs, and people in our business who are the best at what they do. We're also trying to hire people and add more people to our A team today. It's all about staying on top of things, such as mobile trends, changes to Google algorithms, that's something we do on a day-to-day basis.
It sounds like you're completely bootstrapped. How have you managed to build the company to the size you have without outside funding?
Brett Rossmann; Yes, we haven't taken any money as of today. We have been smart about how to make investments in our business, and when we jump into a new category or vertical. We spent time going out there and really talking to customers, doing primary research, and have our customers actually help us build our products. We have a checklist of about forty things we go through, to make sure the market is big enough, and figure out how much demand consumers have for a product, and how much organic and paid traffic we can actually drive to a website to acquire a consumer. Those are one of a number of factors we look at today to build our business. We do that methodically. Those bets have turned out pretty well for us. Obviously, there were situations when we first started our organization, when we were focused on customer acquisition for the mortgage lending vertical. We rode that wave through 2007, until the housing market crashed, and we had to adapt. That's when we started looking at credit repair, online education, and others. It was a matter of quick thinking when our business was going downhill fast, pivoting the business and bringing it out of a tailspin, and turning a disaster into something positive, allowing us to use our cash flow to springboard into banking and the other areas we are going into today.
What is the biggest issue in your industry which keeps you up at night?
Brett Rossmann: That's a good question. I think for us, the question is if we are doing things fast enough. We're still bootstrapped, and one of the things we are looking and is continuing to hire the best people. It's very competitive in the Los Angeles market, and we've had a real focus on culture, to differentiate ourselves and continue to hire the top talent in the LA area. We recently brought on a key individual to help us do that, to get involved in extracurricular activities, to put programs in place for our employees, and show them that we care about them, and that we're positioning them to succeed from the career perspective.
It sounds like you're doing a lot of hiring?
Brett Rossmann: We're really trying to round out our divisions, and have a number of open positions on the technical side, sales, marketing, operations, on our content team, and on our media buying team. We are also launching a New York office this year, and will looking for someone to head up that office, so that we'll have a lot closer representation on the East Coast, where there are lots of ad agencies we are working with today.