How a 33-Year-Old Entrepreneur Grew 4 Successful Media Brands
Grow Your Business, Not Your Inbox
Because success in one industry doesn’t necessarily translate to success in another, it's unusual when founders like JAKK Media’s Managing Partner Kenny Kline find it in four. His company is involved in running media brands in niches ranging from physical health to home security. Between all of its platforms, his company’s content reaches millions of people each month.
To learn about how he and his team established their various footholds, I spoke with Kline to discuss his approach to business and what strategies he finds to be most useful in engaging users. Here are four principles that Kline has leveraged to make it all work.
1. Focus on sustainability.
There’s no easy path to profitability -- no shortcuts to the finish line. The best method of securing your company’s future is by prioritizing value creation. In doing this, you have to invest in the quality of your products, rather than chasing the promise of increased traction for a given month. While a growth hack might give you a taste of short-term success, focusing on your company’s sustainability will protect its future. This is to say that businesses have to survive in perpetuity, and a viable business strategy must consider how best to achieve long-term sustainability.
According to Kline, “There are always changes in algorithms, changes in consumer behavior, changes in platform.” Because this makes various growth hacks unreliable in the long run, providing the most value to customers is what best increases your chances of success. When thinking about web traffic, Kline describes Google's algorithm as volatile, but says what makes a more significant difference than any SEO tactics is putting out content that people actually value.
2. Invest in building communities.
In thinking about how the Google algorithm has changed over time, Kline developed a particular interest in his brand’s digital ecosystem. Noting the decreasing organic reach of sites like Facebook and Instagram, he began to reconsider how best to cultivate a community around his business.
For him, this involved two things. The first is having, as he puts it, a “focus on mobile experience.” For JAKK media, the majority of web traffic comes via mobile devices, and so not only does this mean there is a great importance in “making sure that your [mobile] site is fast”, says Kline, but moreover that the integration of share buttons for any social-media platform can significantly increase your business's reach. And, if applicable, your chances at virality.
Giving users the opportunity to participate in expanding your company’s reach through their own organic networks can be an effective way of reaching individuals who would not have otherwise come across it. Moreover, giving users the chance to engage with your company on social media -- or simply advocate for it -- develops a sense of loyalty integral to creating an online community.
3. Humanize your business.
In conducting business, Kline has adopted an outlook that focuses on people. A dedication to responsiveness and an aim for interactivity and engagement is the foundation for the online community he’s trying to cultivate. As Kline sees it, businesses should “respond to comments, engage on social, respond to emails and create a dialogue on platforms where readers and viewers are already interacting with your content.” Aside from helping “users feel like there are real people behind brands,” Kline says that these kinds of interactions build trust and bring about what he calls “super readers” who, in enjoying JAKK media’s content, “feel especially looped into it.”
This focus on people, however, is more than external. In the context of dealing with internal issues, partners and contractors, Kline says that, whenever possible, businesses should aim “to be kind and reasonable.”
4. Ask your customers what they want.
Kline’s people-focused approach to conducting business involves an often-underutilized tactic to finding out what his customers want: asking them directly. Keeping an open line to your consumers and seeking out the platforms they use is the most effective way of finding out what they want first-hand.
More than anything else, if you want your consumers to develop brand loyalty and advocate for you online, there has to be a degree of mutualism. By actively seeking to give consumers the content or products they desire, you can sustain your value proposition while actively involving your consumer base in your company’s output process.