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The Power of Native Ads to Scale eCommerce Brands with James Van Elswyk, Founder of Symphony Agency

James Van ElswykJames Van Elswyk is a native advertising expert who owns multiple brands and businesses, including Symphony Agency, Purple Leads, Purple AdLab, and Geek Out Education. After starting out as a one-man affiliate, James now runs a team of 55 full-time employees from around the world. With several years of experience under his belt, James is one of the leading experts in clicks and conversions. Outside of his entrepreneurial endeavors, James also owns a charity that educates underprivileged people on how to media buy.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • James Van Elswyk discusses his background in marketing and why he loves native ads
  • How native ads can help you take your ecommerce brand to the next level
  • James’s favorite type of businesses to run
  • The thought process behind James’s hands-on approach to business
  • How James built his high-quality team of 55 full-time employees
  • What makes an agency effective?
  • James talks about his charity training school that teaches underprivileged people about media buying
  • James’s recommended books and podcasts
  • The ecommerce brands that James admires and why

In this episode…

Media buying is an essential part of scaling an ecommerce brand, but many entrepreneurs struggle with account or channel issues. If you’re looking for stability, control, and a new way to scale your brand, James Van Elswyk has the answer for you: native advertising.

As the Founder of multiple businesses and brands, James is an expert when it comes to scaling a company. According to him, native ads are effective for a variety of reasons—they’re stable, they do not depend on a black box or algorithm, and their results are consistent. So, how can you start using native ads to scale your brand to success?

Listen to this episode of the eCommerce Profits Podcast as host Joshua Chin interviews James Van Elswyk, the Founder of Symphony Agency, about the power of native ads when scaling an ecommerce brand. James discusses his entrepreneurial journey, why he loves native ads, and his advice to agency owners. He also reveals his favorite business books, podcasts, and ecommerce brands. Stay tuned!

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Special Mentions:

Books and Podcasts Mentioned: 

Sponsor for this episode

This episode is brought to you by Chronos Agency.

If you are a direct-to-consumer ecommerce brand that wants to unlock the optimum customer lifetime value through email marketing, then look no further than Chronos Agency!

Our team of passionate email marketing experts have helped hundreds of brands generate over $70 million in return from email alone, and our clients receive an average of 3500% ROI from our efforts.

Chronos Agency has worked with a variety of brands, including Truly Beauty, Alya Skin, and many more. Our mission is to help real businesses achieve real results. 

If you want to take your revenue to the next level using email marketing, be sure to email our team at sales@chronos.agency or visit chronos.agency to learn more.

Episode Transcript

Intro 0:04

Welcome to the eCommerce Profits Podcast, where we feature top founders and experts in the ecommerce industry and take an in depth look at their struggles and successes in growing e commerce brands profitably.

Joshua Chin 0:21

Hey everyone, Josh Chin here, I am the host of the eCommerce Profits Podcast where we feature top experts in the ecommerce industry. And we go behind the scenes of the struggles and successes of growing a brand. This episode is brought to you by Chronos Agency. If you’re a direct to consumer ecommerce brand that’s ready for next level growth and to unlock the optimal customer lifetime value through email marketing, Chronos is your company. We have helped hundreds of brands get over $17 million in return from email alone, and our clients get an average of 3500% ROI from our efforts. We’ve worked with brands like TrulyBeauty, Ally Skin, the UI and many more. And for some reason, James, beauty brands and apparel brands are just attracted to me and my company. My fashion sense has absolutely nothing to do with it, as you can tell. But if anyone’s interested out there, the next step is just email us at Sales@chronos.agency. You can go to Chronos.Agency to learn more. And today’s guests I have some really, really special and interesting. I took a bit of time to book this session with James but we finally got you on. James Van Elswyk is a native advertising expert, he started off as a one man affiliate to now owning multiple brands and running multiple businesses with 55 full time employees from all around the world. James is one of the leading experts when it comes to creatives, clicks and conversions, especially in native advertising. He’s been doing this for many, many, many years. He’s the founder of Symphony Agency, Purple Leads, Purple AdLab, and Geek Out Education. James, thank you so much for your time. And thank you for being here.

James Van Elswyk 2:11

For sure, buddy. Of course, I’m gonna come chat with you make me a bunch of money.

Joshua Chin 2:15

Oh, yeah. So let’s get started. James, for those that don’t know who you are. I mean, you have been doing a bunch of things. You’ve been making lots of impact in different fields across. You know, I know your story. But for those that don’t know who you are, what’s the best way for someone to get to know you? What is your what’s the story that you want to tell?

James Van Elswyk 2:39

Yeah, I’m a marketing guy through and through and selling things. My whole life first with my mouth selling things on the phone, I was a call center person and I moved over to digital. In about 2013, I had a strong focus on lead generation, which was great to me. We made a lot of solar leads and other type of financial hardship leads, etc. We switched over or I switched over more my focus to ecommerce A few years ago, like the drop shipping revolution, I went through that realized it was like customer service nightmare. And decided to kind of switch over to building some more stable things. As well as opening an agency, both a creative agency that handles you know, stores, websites pre sells. And also a you know, ad agency with a focus on non native ads, which is really where I’ve bought traffic on a lot of different channels. Obviously, Facebook was a big one for a long time. And then I just kind of got fed up with the account issues and the volatility and switched over to focus on Native so now we buy internally, we buy as affiliates, but we also buy as a as an agency for e commerce companies or for traditional affiliate style offers, but with like a real focus on Native Ads.

Joshua Chin 4:06

That’s awesome. So now we work with a ton of ecom brands that have minimal to no native advertising channel setup at all. What’s your best advice for someone who is absolutely brand new with native advertising? Especially one when they have already had a certain milestones the business say like seven figure six figure seven figures in revenue, and they’re looking for that next stage of growth. What does that look like with native?

James Van Elswyk 4:34

Yeah, I think it’s it’s, as I said, I bought on a lot of traffic sources, and I like to get there early. And like the hardest thing about starting a new traffic source. It’s like anything in life, right? It’s overcoming the fear of something. And I don’t know how to do it and this type of stuff. So for me, the biggest accomplishment is just to do it, right step one. So when I tell people is with native ads, just go create the accounts. Create a PayPal And just start remarketing, like you can’t lose, like your audience size is not going to be huge, you’re gonna spend $50 a day or $100 a day just to start, but you might as well just get the remarketing portion of things going and start getting some of that money coming in. You know, you don’t need to go crazy and be a native expert. But you can, at least you know, set up the pixel, see where some of your conversions are coming from, you’ll start to see there certain websites and certain publishers that makes sales, you’ll see how the platform works, you’ll play around in the dashboard. And then you know, you go from there, you know, it’s just the easiest way to try to conquer something new, there’s like no traffic platform, that you can’t quickly set up a couple remarketing campaigns. That’ll make you a little bit of money.

Joshua Chin 5:46

That is that that’s really cool. And so you have basically worked with pretty much all the channels possible to scale an e commerce brand. What is by far your favorite and why?

James Van Elswyk 6:02

Look, I like native ads for a reason, really. One, they’re just stable, because they’re not advanced, like algorithmically, you’re not depending on a black box to make decisions. It’s very manual. You’re paying per click, you’re optimizing, just click time CTR, you know, like, that’s what’s going to help you win an auction. There’s nothing else. There’s no real secret sauce. There have been some advancements, but not a lot. And as a result of this, it makes it stable scaling is stable results are stable. So I like this quite a bit. Also, you just don’t have any account problems. Like I’ve spent a ton of money over the last seven years. Yes, seven years on Native Ads. And I’ve never had a banned account once, not one time, you know. So yeah, you still may have problems with ads getting disapproved, etc. But they want your money they’re going to communicate with you, they’ll tell you why they’ll tell you what to change. So as opposed to swimming against stream, like a lot of traffic sources are, you’re still like you’re getting the help and support of the channel if you’re doing a good job. So as a result of both of those things, it’s been nice to have something stable.

Joshua Chin 7:18

That’s very cool. And on the on a bigger picture you have been building been involved in in partner and multiple businesses, what has been your favorite type of business to run, or rather, if you have to go back in time, and pick one.

James Van Elswyk 7:37

Look, there’s there’s so many different things to say there. I mean, look, if you take a look at the evolution of kind of what I’ve done, it went from lead generation, and affiliation to drop shipping to brand owning, because I just think it’s a smarter, better bet to build something long term. Like for cash flow, being an affiliate is great. for cash flow, lead generation is great. But from a value perspective, and building an organization that you can really bank on and, and keep something that you built. I think investing and building an e commerce brand has been pretty great. Also, it’s 24 hours a day 365 or a lot of other things, you run into caps and other problems, this some you can make money all the time. If you’re smart, you can do it. In every, every geo like I feel like it’s endless, like if you keep pushing, there is no limit, because you can just you know, you could sell something to everybody. So the brand side, I really enjoy that I’ve really started to enjoy the agency side to be honest with you, you know, our agency, you know, our kind of motto is really to help our our clients succeed, right. And that doesn’t just mean like, we’re gonna make their campaigns profitable. As much as it is we want to get like involved in their business and say like, hey, you’re, you know, you’re missing it on YouTube, let me introduce you to someone to help you take care of YouTube. Or, look, we’re doing a good job on our side with the traffic but your page isn’t so great. Let us do some CRL on your page, like just marrying with good partners, we’re pretty selective on who we take on. They have to already know what they’re doing and be fairly advanced and another traffic traffic source usually, unless the founders are like amazing. And it gives you a chance to kind of like peek inside other businesses learn also kind of like become part of the business without sharing the potential downsides. A lot of the struggles I can pop in, help them with their business, be part of it, do my job, learn, give advice, even if it’s not native related or related to what my agency is doing. It’s still fun to be part of those other areas. So I’m actually starting to really enjoy the agency side.

Joshua Chin 9:52

I can 100 relate to that. And it’s it’s honestly something that you know, it Intuitively, it’s not something that helps you scale at all. It’s not scalable at all. So could you speak to that? That idea? Because you scale businesses really, really quickly, and I’ve seen it done, like firsthand on some of the brands that I’ve worked with you on. But what’s that thought process behind kind of being really hands on with the clients that you that you marry? Yeah. Yeah.

James Van Elswyk 10:33

I think it’s, it is difficult to be scalable, it’s difficult to be scalable. When you’re super hands on, I think it’s what is the highest leverage activity for the highest leverage clients, right? Like, when you bring on clients that have endless potential for scale, the bit that you help them with, will just have such a greater, like rate of health, right? Like, if they’ve got a big thing going on, they don’t have inventory constraints, they have a good team, just helping a little bit on Well, you notice when there’s tons of traffic, if you make a small optimization, that conversion rate, it can have a really big output. So that’s one thing. The second thing is like, I have a really great team. So if if I see that the page is crappy, it’s not necessarily me, that’s going to go in and do the CRL. But someone on our team will handle it. And they’re good, because everybody that works for the agency, whether it be the native agency, or whether it be for the creative agency, they’ve worked for me for the last probably four or five years. So they know all this stuff that’s been really helpful for us. So they know like, hey, Okay, I see the problem you’re having, where do you had that problem? Let me help you out with that. Because a lot of the time, you know, like when you when you’re an ad agency, and you run traffic, so often the problem may not be with the traffic side. And I think a lot of agencies that don’t have experience owning their own brands, or handling the stores or handling the websites, there’s just very little areas of the full thing that we haven’t already dealt with ourselves. So we’re able to, like offer help, in a lot of areas that the client might be missing. And I have the people that have that knowledge at this point, right? There’s a few tiny things that are still my domain that I still have, like, a better ability at than my employees, it’s usually just creative strategy, just knowing what’s going to work comes from experience. But as far as everything else, the people that work for me are just great with their area and are better than me almost all the time. So I can just kind of let them hop in and work on some things.

Joshua Chin 12:37

And and with 55 full time employees, that’s a collective, what hundreds of years have just been there done that experience that brands can just leverage off instantly from day one.

James Van Elswyk 12:50

They do everything. I mean, it’s just like, I mean, look even just like store bills, right, like Shopify, WooCommerce custom checkouts, like just we’ve been through all those parts already, you know, so even on the technical side, the CRM side, or if it’s landing pages, or if it’s full funnels, or if it’s upsells, or if it’s the copywriting for it, we just already did all of it. You know what I mean? So we usually have some pretty good insights into where we can help. And if not, I, I’ve been blessed with like an insane high quality network. So whenever I run up against the wall, or if my client, my partner runs up against the wall, I know I can go find the answer for it. You know what I mean? So sometimes it’s just like, for example, adding affiliates for them. Like, we might have a client that’s banging it, they’re hitting YouTube, they’re hitting Facebook, we’re making it happen for them on natives. And I might be like, Listen, I’ve got some amazing affiliate buddies that can drive a bunch more revenue for you. And I just plug them in, you know, so it’s just a lot of extra stuff that we’ve extra, extra positive stuff that we’ve accumulated over the last couple of years.

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