Kris Jones is a rare breed. He’s been active in Internet marketing both as an arbitrager and affiliate marketing whizz since the early days of the web. He’s been there and done that, and now he’s ready to share his secrets.
If you’re in the market for media jobs you’d be wise to listen.
Kris graduated from Pennsylvania State University and gained a Master of Science from Villanova University as as well a Juris Doctorate from Albany Law School. He’s previously founded Internet marketing agency PepperJam, worked for GSI Commerce when PepperJam was acquired by them, and he spent time working in the office of Congressman Paul E Kanjorski.
After raising seed money from search arbitrage and PPC arbitrage, Jones went on to become the founder of one of the fastest-growing companies in the US. He admits his methods were a little unusual though: “My focus was on scale. So some search arbitragers will say to focus on one or two or three different merchants and just blow out as many keyword lists and everything as you can.
“My focus was a little bit different. I tried to make $50-$100 profit a month with as many merchants as you could possibly make that kind of profit with.”
After making money from his many merchants, in 1999 Kris went on to set up PepperJam, the full-service Internet marketing agency and affiliate network. The company was named by Inc. Magazine as the fastest-growing in the US for three years straight and in 2009 PepperJam was sold to GSI Commerce, a business that was subsequently acquired by eBay.
PepperJam – a Great Place to Work
Kris was renowned for his perceived ‘relaxed’ approach to work and particularly to the working environment he provided for his staff. At a time when it seems every startup wants to ramp up the fun-o-meter and ‘out crazy’ the startup next door, Kris was one of the first employers to install Nintendo Wiis and ping pong tables in the PepperJam office, insisting that the staff would regulate their own fun and ensure their performance never suffered.
Kris continued: “The approach that we took when we were at two employees – myself and our Chief Operating Officer said ‘we want to find the smartest people we can find that will fit within a fun work culture.’ We weren’t looking for suit and ties. We were looking for young, smart, creative people who were going to set their own standards.
“So my advice would be that sometimes you get wrapped up in how much you pay the employee and everything. We paid all of our employees very well, but what I think the value of working at a company like Pepperjam is not in “I make X number of dollars” but “this is a fun place to work.”
The gamble paid off, with the company developing several pieces of innovative technology, most notably Pepperjam Network, which has become one of the leading affiliate networks in the world and currently powers affiliate marketing for brands such as Toys-R-Us, the NFL, Calvin Klein, Levi’s, Mattel, Crayola, Sesame Street, Jenny Craig, Teleflora, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Jelly Belly, the BBC, the NHL, the NBA, and over 1,000 others.
In April 2010, after leaving Pepperjam, Kris set up an early stage technology investment fund — KBJ Capital, which boasts portfolio companies such as education publishing platform Highlighter.com, food portal Yumm.com, advertising startup LavCup, affiliate marketing specialists VigLink, app conversion company Pathmapp and ReferLocal.com, a local digital commerce platform. Recently Kris joined on as advisor / chairman of Internet Marketing and SEO tools company Internet Marketing Ninjas.
Kris is very much in demand as a public speaker and delights in offering pearls of wisdom to students and young entrepreneurs. He is also the author of ‘Search-Engine Optimization: Your Visual Blueprint to Effective Internet Marketing’, a book that has been at the top of the search marketing sales charts since the first edition was published in 2008. He’s currently working on the third edition, which should be available in the US, Canada and Europe later this year.
Not bad for someone with a distinctly relaxed approach to work…