Banners Broker Q&A with Terry Stern
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Banners Broker Q&A with Terry Stern

If you have been following my features on Banners Broker, you may be aware that I was recently invited to Canada to explore their brand new Ontario headquarters. This came after I accused the program of being a scam in these two posts:

In response to the criticism, I was contacted by Terry Stern who is the International Public Relations Director at Stellar Point (acting on behalf of Banners Broker). Terry offered to fly me out to Ontario, put me up in a hotel, and show me exactly how the company operates.

It’s a generous invitation, and one that I plan to accept, although I will be paying for the tickets and hotel out of my own pocket.

Due to work commitments and the fact that my passport is currently floating around the US Embassy, I am unable to make the trip until March.

In the meantime, I suggested that Terry could respond to some of the most pressing criticism directed at BannersBroker in a Q&A session on this blog. He agreed, and you are about to read the full unedited exchange.

Note: There are various questions where I asked Terry to elaborate and provide further detail. Terry declined for the reasons stated at the bottom of this post. In the interest of complete transparency, I have included the unanswered questions and marked which ones Terry did not wish to respond to any further.

Banners Broker Q&A

Finch: First of all, it’d be great to hear some official figures on the money currently circulating in BannersBroker. Can you tell me, a) how much money has been invested in to the system by affiliates, b) how much money has been withdrawn from the system by affiliates, c) how much money is currently sitting marked ‘My Total Earnings’? These figures should help us get an idea of the ratios, margins and overall profitability of the program.

Terry Stern: a) No, this is private information of which no private company would release. b) Again no, private companies don’t release this type of information to outside sources. c) To provide you with this information would disclose proprietary systems that would enable anyone to replicate what BBI does. This is what allowed BBI to be accepted by the Brokers we do business with.

Finch Note: Banners Broker is not shy of boasting at seminars about how much money the program has already paid out, so this was news to me.

Finch: Banners Broker denies that it is an ‘investment’ of any kind. So what is it?

Terry Stern: Banners Broker International is a direct sales company just like any other direct sales company, whereas we buy or manufacture our products, mark them up and resell them to affiliates.

For example, the Broker sells ad space to an advertiser for $10,000, BBI offers to fulfill their obligation for $5,000. BBI resells the ability to generate traffic to an affiliate for $1,000 and upon completion gives the affiliate $2,000 for doing so while retaining $3,000 profit. This is just an example, but it gives you an idea of how the opportunity works.

Finch: The problem with this model is that there is no shortage of advertisers with budgets far bigger than Banners Broker who will also fulfil this obligation for $5,000. What makes you think BannersBroker can get a discount on the ad space but another advertiser can’t?

** No further comment from Terry **

Finch: Banners Broker has made numerous presentations on the ‘$500B/year Blind Network’ that governs how advertising space in auctioned over the web.

This is a remarkable claim considering global advertising spend across all media types was only forecast to grow to $465.5 billion in 2012. When you break the ad spend down to just online advertising, the number drops to $83.2 billion. Only a percentage of this is spent on blind networks…

Terry Stern: …According to a report released by Visual.ly, the total ad spending for 2012 was around $529.5 Billion, with approximately $94.2 Billion spent on online ad spending. Other sources show anywhere from $500 – $600+ Billion, with over $160 Billion spent on online ad spending. There are many sources of information to gather statistics on.

Finch: And I haven’t yet found a single source that acknowledges the presence of a $500/B Blind Network. Can you show me one?

** No further comment from Terry **

Finch: Banners Broker talks of the ten major brokers that work with ‘The Blind Network’, but there is little to no evidence outside of Banners Broker that such a network exists. Can you name the ten brokers, explain The Blind Network, and tell us why nobody else is talking about it?

Terry Stern: This is actually untrue. Blind Networks are a common term used in the online advertising and mobile advertising industries. They’ve been written about by multiple authors, advertising companies etc. OpenX even has on their website the definition of what a Blind Network is. There’s no need for me to list them over and over when the information is readily available.

Finch: You are dodging the question. We all know that blind networks exist, but Banners Broker promotes the concept of a singular Blind Network, of which there are 10 major brokers. Once again, can you tell me the names of those ten brokers?

** No further comment from Terry **

Finch: Banners Broker regularly claims that money paid out to its affiliates is not derived from advertisers signing up on BannersBroker.com, but rather it comes from advertisers being recruited externally on The Blind Network. Can you explain what the company means by this?

Terry Stern: It’s very simple really. The Blind Networks offer low pricing to direct marketers in exchange for those marketers relinquishing control over where their ads will run. Blind Networks achieve their low pricing through large bulk buys of typically remnant inventory combined with campaign optimization and ad targeting technology. “Blind” networks do not allow advertisers to know which site their message will appear on. Most general ad networks offer some transparency related to which sites are a part of a network, or allow for editorial guardians to prevent an ad from appearing on a certain type of site.

Where Banners Broker International comes in, is that they purchase ad space that these ads will appear on in bulk, and the Blind Networks service those spaces through providing ads with the advertisers paying the network for doing so. There are a substantial number of websites that allow for advertising to be placed on them, and those sites are paid based on the number of impressions they boast. Since each site that’s a part of the network is required by the network to have a specific traffic flow-through, the networks are able to sell those impressions and space to resellers. BBI comes in at this point. BBI purchases the ad space on the websites that are looking for ads through the Ad Network, then the ad network services those spaces with ads. BBI generates an income through the difference between what the Ad Network charges the advertiser, and what it costs to pay the publishers. When an affiliate purchases a package from BBI, they are purchasing a pre-packaged amount of ad space, with different propagation time-frames. As the panels run, they symbolize an ad space on a website in the network, and the traffic that’s viewing that ad space. The rate the affiliate pays is more than BBI pays for the ad space, and the amount BBI pays the affiliate is less than it earns for the network. This is how BBI generates the bulk of its revenue.

Some have said that they don’t see their panels moving regularly, this is because the panels don’t move in real-time, and were never advertised to do so.

Finch: You say you purchase ad space in bulk. Well, that makes BannersBroker an advertiser (regardless of whether it resells the space). You are purchasing ad space on a publisher’s site. Advertiser.

You are in direct competition with other large advertisers who want to purchase that same ad space, and are also willing to buy in bulk. The only difference is that they don’t have to pay any affiliates, which gives them a competitive advantage and allows them to price you out of the market. Your mark-up is unrealistic and impossible to sustain.

It is an inevitability of using a model like this:

advertiser > broker > broker > network > publisher

Instead of the tried and tested streamlined model:

advertiser > network > publisher

You say networks ‘are able to sell impressions to resellers’. Forget resellers. The only thing the network does is sell impressions to advertisers. You may be a ‘reseller’, but first and foremost you are an advertiser. And a very disadvantaged one in the sense that you have 300,000 affiliates riding your back.

I’m not even going to breach the subject of panels and packages. They have no relevance in the real world.

So I ask again, how is this a sustainable business model?

** No further comment from Terry **

Finch: If the advertisers that BannersBroker relies on to pay its affiliates are not being recruited on BannersBroker.com, what role do advertisers who sign-up through the website play? Where are their ads being shown?

Terry Stern: Any advertiser that signs up through the website goes straight through to the Ad Networks we are involved with. BBI takes a ‘finder’s fee’ for bringing in new advertisers, and pays the affiliate 10% of the amount the advertisers spends.

Finch: Long shot, are you prepared to reveal any names of advertisers?

More importantly, if you are working with multiple ad networks, how is it decided where a campaign will be run? If I’m an advertiser, I’m at a severe disadvantage if I’m paying a premium to have less choice and less control over where my ads are served. What do I gain by using BannersBroker?

** No further comment from Terry **

Finch: The websites on The Choice Network appear to be owned by the same company. Much of the content might fairly be considered ‘junk’ and there seems to be almost zero organic traffic on these sites. Can you explain why they would be considered a valuable proposition for an advertiser’s ad spend?

Terry Stern: The Choice Network is in a BETA stage, and is currently under review.

Finch: Why is there no mention of this to paying advertisers?

** No further comment from Terry **

Finch: Can you detail the nature of the past relationship between Banners Broker and Clicksor? Is it not correct that until recently, the company used the Clicksor Reseller Network to serve ads?

Terry Stern: This is actually correct. You must keep in mind that the arrangement BBI has with the Ad Networks it does business with is not a typical ‘reseller’ relationship. Clicksor in itself is a small piece of the whole, but still capable of meeting the demands of BBI. With the addition of another Ad Network, we’re now capable of meeting the growing demands and offer new products, and it’s only a matter of time now before other Ad Networks come aboard.

Finch: The Clicksor Reseller Network specifically states that it will only grant the third party access to its publishers, not its advertisers. So, if Banners Broker used this network, can you explain how the model works without having to recruit advertisers through BannersBroker.com?

Terry Stern: As I previously mentioned, we have an a-typical relationship with Clicksor due to the nature of the initial proposal we made to them. Unfortunately I am unable to give additional details regarding that relationship as it’s proprietary information regarding our business model.

Finch: I would agree that your description of the ‘reseller’ relationship is certainly not typical. It’s not typical because it makes no sense. As an advertiser, if I want to run ads on Clicksor’s blind network, I sign up through Clicksor and setup my campaign. There is no need for a broker.

Without attracting advertisers, BannersBroker brings no value to the table. The relationship is built on Clicksor’s platform, using Clicksor’s publishers with an advertiser who signs up via Clicksor. You are suggesting that Clicksor is then going to share a slice of the pie with BannersBroker. Why would they do that?

The purpose of the Clicksor Reseller Network is to give you, Banners Broker, access to the publishers that are signed up with Clicksor. The responsibility falls on you to recruit advertisers. It’s what defines you as a broker, and it’s the only reason why Clicksor would share their profits.

It’s all very well to say that the above does not apply because your relationship is not ‘typical’. You’re damn right it’s not typical. Let’s start by getting to the bottom of how it’s even possible.

Please explain exactly, in the most simple form, how your Reseller relationship differs from the standard Reseller relationship. And more importantly, why it makes sense for a) Clicksor, and b) the advertiser.

** No further comment from Terry **

Finch: Here’s a quote from a BB presentation: “In the beginning, Chris Smith went to the 10 banners ad brokers and proposed that he create a relationship with them as a broker of a different type. All but one of those companies refused. One mid sized broker could see the potential.

Can you describe the nature of this relationship that he proposed?

** Terry declined to comment **

Finch: It’s well known that Rajiv Dixit, Chris Smith and David Hooker like to travel the world holding seminars to attract affiliates. Can you explain why there is no evidence of a Banners Broker presence at any of the major advertising trade shows?

** Terry declined to comment **

Finch: Rajiv Dixit is well known for his involvement in the controversial ICF World Homes program, which was effectively shut down by the Canadian Competitions Bureau. David Hooker was also Director of Sales and Marketing at Herbalife, another company facing allegations of illegal pyramid trading. Very little is known about CEO, Chris Smith. Can you describe his background and what he did before founding Banners Broker?

** Terry declined to comment **

Finch: One of the great hooks behind the Banners Broker business model is that it helps the ‘little man’. As a philanthropic cause, doesn’t it make more sense to operate a streamlined business model (without affiliates) and then, say, donate to charity?

Terry Stern: This is the business model that was chosen. The affiliate program gives everyone interested, or who may have failed at building an online business before, the opportunity to succeed and generate revenue from an online business.

Finch: Why choose the least effective form of financing? There has to be a reason why a vastly inefficient affiliate model was favoured over venture capitalists. What is it?

** No further comment from Terry **

Finch: I’ve read reports on this very blog of $300 purchases resulting in profits of thousands per month. The affiliates see your company as a remarkable opportunity to make money (who could blame them?). I see those affiliates as more of an achilles heel.

If we are to assume that Banners Broker ‘borrows’ $100 Million from affiliates to leverage the company’s ad/pub growth, and if we take an extremely conservative estimate that the end goal of those affiliates is to double their money, that means that – effectively – Banners Broker has borrowed $100 Million while paying another $100 Million in interest (expected affiliate payouts). That’s an instant APR of 100%.

You have spoken on a number of occasions about the potential of leveraging affiliate purchasing power. My view is that it is a curse, not a blessing, when the expected returns (indeed, the reported returns) are so high.

A venture capitalist or an investment bank would take one look at your business model, give you the cash – if it’s up to scratch – and only ask for a fraction of the return. That’s more growth, more purchasing power and far LESS support tickets than you receive by using affiliates. What are your thoughts on this?

Terry Stern: This is where most become confused and accuse us of being something other than where we are. We do not guarantee that you will double an affiliate’s money, we state that after the first two complimentary cycles have completed, that an affiliate will have twice what their initial inventory purchase was valued at. They will either have their initial purchase price available in their ewallet and a matching amount in panel inventory, or they will have twice their initial purchase value available to them in inventory. After that, it’s up to each affiliate to manage their business according to what their individual goals are. We do not make claims offering obscene amounts of money, or that you’ll make thousands each month. The returns are completely dependant on the efforts of the affiliate. Yes, there have been some issues with conflicting verbiage that has been used in the past, which is why the company has created the roles of compliance and public relations in order to correct these issues.

Furthermore, it’s currently being introduced that affiliates must have running campaigns as part of their businesses. This isn’t a ‘sit back and do nothing’ business, this business requires attention in order to work optimally, and since this business is about brokering ad space, it’s important the affiliate understands the business through utilization and application.

Finch: With all due respect, the archived BannersBroker Facebook and Twitter feeds are littered with examples of guarantees and false promises. The entire business was launched on a promise of ‘doubling your money’.

Here’s the BannersBroker.com homepage, as it appeared days after launch:

BannersBroker Doubler

You are now saying that you’ve never guaranteed doubling the affiliate’s money, despite hundreds of examples of such promises, both online and offline at events.

Do you not feel that the 300,000 members who’ve signed up to BannersBroker should be entitled to full refunds given that many of them have been recruited under misleading advertising?

** No further comment from Terry **

Finch: What makes the company think Banners Broker is operating a sustainable business model when a competitor could enter the market with the exact same model and undercut you by not taking on affiliates?

Terry Stern: In order for your assumption to be valid, you would have to fully understand the details in the BBI business model, which isn’t a standard reseller’s agreement, and you would have to have access to the algorithms that are used to support the system. There are many companies that ‘undercut’ others, which is what defines competition. It’s like how Coke and Pepsi are constantly undercutting each other to gain larger sections of the marketplace.

Finch: Affiliates are told that BannersBroker requires work to succeed. They are encouraged to build their own ‘Banners Broker business’. Can you explain, in market terms and as a value proposition, what this business is?

Terry Stern: The business simply put, is brokering ad space for advertising. The more affiliates an affiliate can bring into the network, the more they are able to take advantage of the credit incentives the company offers. As previously mentioned, affiliates are now also being required to run campaigns. The business is about brokering ad space, and an affiliate can run a campaign to promote their BBI business, but they still must run a campaign as part of their business.

Finch: You say affiliates are being required to run campaigns. What kind of campaigns? And why should they have to run them?

** No further comment from Terry **

Finch: Paying affiliates internationally via a pre-funded Mastercard is considered by some to be a form of money laundering. Money laundering or not, it’s a very strange method of payment that is not available through any other reputable ad networks. Why hasn’t the company set up international direct deposits or even cheques as a payment option?

Terry Stern: In order for the automated software to work properly for everyone, the company needs to have options that everyone can use. Since PayPal doesn’t work for every country, and bank transfers become complicated with some countries, in addition to placing additional delays on the time it takes for payments to propagate, additionally, some affiliates that come from poorer countries may not have bank accounts due to the complications involved in getting one. Since the system needs to provide options that accommodate all affiliates, only those methods that can actually be used by every affiliate are considered and used. The BB Card is an approved method of transferring funds accepted by all countries we do business with, provides the shortest amount of time to process, and enables an affiliate to gain access to their funds quickly.

Finch: You mention ‘automated software’. It seems that BannersBroker payments are anything but automated, otherwise there would be a consistent pattern to when they are received.

Why does every payment method have to accommodate all users? If that was the case, there would only be one payment method. You’ve already shown that you are willing to be flexible otherwise it would be just STP, or just Payza, or just the card. Why not extend that flexibility to reputable payment processors that work much more efficiently with much less hassle?

** No further comment from Terry **

Finch: Can you explain why the company requires notarised user ID from affiliates when its competitors do not?

Terry Stern: Since we do business internationally, we are required to verify the identity of each person we do business with, just like a bank does with KYC “Know Your Customer”. The payment provider we use requires that we provide them with specific ID verification samples in order for them to approve payment processing for that affiliate. All information we collect to provide ID verification is passed to the payment processor who validates that information prior to accepting payment requests for them. If they fail verification, they are unable to be paid until they have solved the issue. Any ID accepted by BBI on behalf of affiliates, is kept in the strictest of confidence, and is only provided to the payment processor with the same level of confidence. There are multiple forms of ID that are accepted, and notarization demonstrates that the person in-fact matches the ID form used.

I am unable to speak on behalf of other companies since they have their own criteria that they are required to comply with.

Finch: Many affiliates will be keen to hear why their payments have become more sporadic. Standard members were originally told they would have to wait 7 business days to receive withdrawal requests. They now have to wait 20 calendar days, and many members have reported waiting significantly longer. The delays are consistent with a pyramid operation where it takes longer and longer to fund the exponential increase in withdrawal requests. If that is not what is happening, what would you say is the real reason behind these payout delays?

Terry Stern: BBI is unable to control the time it takes for payments released to their institutions, as once funds are released, it falls to the institution to release the funds according to their protocols. It usually takes 3-5 days for the funds to be released from the BBI banks following a request. From there it takes an additional 3-5 days to transfer the funds in order for the institution to verify the request. Once the institution receives the funds, it is up to them how long to wait to release the funds, we can’t dictate that. This is why BBI is transitioning everyone to the BB Card. Once the funds are released to be loaded, the cards are loaded right away and the delay is minimal.

Finch: The company has implemented a requirement that 3 months advance notice be given for any withdrawal over $10,000. We know that advertiser revenue enters the system as soon as the impressions have been bought. In fact, on BannersBroker.com, the advertiser is required to pre-fund his account before he can run any ads. This advance payment means the strain on cash-flow should be minimal. Why does it take 3 months to issue the larger payments?

Terry Stern: BBI has investments in various places, with the time it takes to gather the funds from the various institutions to meet the requests by our affiliates. It’s a well known fact that financial institutions invest the money placed in their trust. Even PayPal follows this practice. In order for sums to be processed, first the financial institution must request the funds to settle our request, then our request needs to be processed. Once the funds are processed they need to be dispersed to the various financial institutions, they must then process the requests and then the payments are released to the individuals. For extremely large sums the timeframe takes longer. You must understand, that the amounts BBI requests isn’t for one affiliate but for hundreds, so the amounts are quite large and require enough time to safely ensure that all funds are available to the affiliates.

Finch: Yes, it’s a well known fact that financial institutions invest money placed in their trust. But when I go to draw a large sum out of a bank, I’ve never been told to go and take a seat and wait for 3 months, certainly not for $10,000. Either you have the money or you don’t. If your investment in ‘various places’ is slowing down the withdrawal process to such an extent, dare I say the company should stop investing in ‘various places’ and focus on improving its cashflow so affiliates can get paid in a timely manner?

** No further comment from Terry **

Finch: When Banners Broker was launched in 2010, it was advertised as a ‘straightline cycler doubler’ on its official blog, on its Twitter account, in YouTube videos and in promotional materials provided to the HYIP community.

Here are tweets archived from Banners Broker in 2010 and early 2011:

7th December 2010
“The Banners Broker Queue is at 6 Days to start Doubling! Where else can you double your money this quickly? A LOT of Members Doubled Today!”

22nd December 2010
“The time frame to double will always fluctuate, but currently we are at an amazing fast past with only 3 days to start doubling!”

8th January 2011
“We are at an AMAZING 2 days to start doubling!!!! This weekend only. Now is the time to buy Packages. Spread the word!”

22nd January 2011
“Welcome back the 2 DAY QUEUE! That’s right, we are sitting at 2.5 days for you to start doubling your money. Buy a package now and get in!”

Can you explain how the company has undergone such a radical transformation from self-proclaimed ‘straightline cycler doubler’ to the most rewarding advertising/publishing platform the world has ever seen?

Terry Stern: This is an exaggeration. The platform isn’t the most rewarding, although we appreciate your stating so.

In the beginning, admittedly, the wording wasn’t chosen with the delicacy and precision that it should have. This is why Stellar Point has introduced their international compliance and public relations departments, not just in Canada, but in every country they operate in. Currently the wording for much of BBI’s marketing and training materials is undergoing revision to correct the inaccuracies in how the programs and company were described. Verbiage aside, the program does provide what it states, to provide a return following the completion of the two complimentary cycles, equal or greater than the initial inventory purchase value. Once again, after that, it’s up to the affiliate to move forward according to their individual goals

Finch: Yes, you have introduced a compliance team a full 24 months after the launch of the program. Meanwhile over 300,000 affiliates have already joined the program – many under false pretences of doubling their money.

Given you are accepting that the company has been falsely advertised and misrepresented by both affiliates and your own website, shouldn’t your customers be entitled to full refunds?

You have taken their funds happily whilst using misleading advertising, and being compliant for over 2 years in allowing the false misrepresentation of your company by affiliates.

I’m sorry, but a vow to ‘fix things’ for the next 300,000 affiliates is unlikely to please many of the existing 300,000 affiliates who feel they’ve already been sold down the river.

** No further comment from Terry **

Finch: Banners Broker was launched privately in the HYIP community, a space notorious for ponzi schemes and false ‘get-rich-quick’ claims. Why did the company choose to target the usual ponzi players for its seed investment as opposed to an investment bank, a venture capitalist or, say, Mike Arrington?

Terry Stern: Simple, because this is where people looking for affiliate and self-generated business opportunities look for new ones. The community is also where legitimate companies looking to source affiliates for their programs, not all of which are ‘ponzi’ schemes, and the intention wasn’t to source seed investment, but as mentioned previously, those that are looking for an opportunity to succeed online where they may have previously failed.

Finch: Self-assessment deadline is rapidly approaching in the UK where many Banners Broker affiliates will be required by law to report their full online earnings. What tax advice would you give to your UK affiliates?

Terry Stern: None, BBI doesn’t provide tax advice. Each affiliate is their own business entity, and thus are responsible for their own accounting and taxes. Realistically, affiliates should speak with an accountant to determine what the best advice would be.

Finch: When filing a tax return, the Banners Broker income listed under ‘My Total Earnings’ should be declared as earnings even though it hasn’t yet been withdrawn. Would you agree or disagree?

Terry Stern: Disagree, an individual doesn’t pay taxes on earnings they haven’t drawn.

Finch: Regarding the Banners Broker office raid in Goa:

At the time of writing (and according to the North Goa Courts database), Ana Luisa Onofre Alves Bento, head of BB India, is awaiting a court hearing after charges were brought under IPC section 4, 5 and 6 of the PCMC banning act 1978, 406 and 420.

‘Mischief’ from a past employee was the reason given for the trouble in Goa. Can you give a little more detail about the exact sequence of events and the nature of the charges?

Terry Stern: Unfortunately I am unable to comment on an ongoing investigation and court case.

Finch: David Hooker was quoted by a Banners Broker employee as saying that the Goan office would be open on the Saturday following the raid, and that the entire event had been a misunderstanding. We are now hearing that the office was willingly closed as the company had already made plans to move to Bangalore. Was the Goan office closed by the police, or was it closed willingly?

Terry Stern: The office was closed by the Police, however the company was not closed down and is still actively operating in India. In November of 2011 a decision had been made to move the company to Bangalore, the “Silicone Capital” of India due to it being more conducive to BBI’s expansion plans.

Finch: In David Hooker’s statement, he says:

PS: Please be informed that although Mr Edney Heredia has been terminated from Banners Broker he continues to be one of the directors, and 50% shareholder in the company as he refused to relinquish his shares in the company. He tried to sell his shares for $50,000 and when this was refused he reduced his request to $10,000 which was still refused by the Executives of Banners Broker International.

$20,000 seems like an extremely modest valuation. Can you disclose on what basis the offer of $10,000 for 50% of the company was refused?

Terry Stern: The company Banners Broker India was initially set up to operate on behalf of BBI and provide training and marketing services. This function has been passed to an Independent Contractor and as such, the company has no value. Mr Heredia has shares in a company that has no function or value. Paying $10,000, $20,000 or $50,000 for a company without value seems a bit ridiculous does it not?

Finch: On one hand you say the company has no value and its function has been passed to an independent contractor, on the other hand you say the company was not closed down and is still actively operating in India with plans to move to a large new office in Bangalore. Which is it?

** No further comment from Terry **

Finch: There are conflicting reports over how BannersBroker plans to deal with bloggers – like myself – and critics posting ‘negative’ pieces about the company. Just recently, Lorenzo Guarini, a leading Banners Broker ambassador was quoted as encouraging affiliates to “ignore the negativity online and get on with [your] businesses. They [Banners Broker] are going to have a bit of a blogging war, by having BB writing negative blogs about the negative bloggers which should be fun.”

This contradicts the official line of communication, clearly, as I am sitting on a cordial invitation to visit Canada and explore the head office in person.

What is your official response to the naysayers and critics? Should we be prepared for targeted hate campaigns, legal action or open invitations to Canada? Is there anything you’d like to say?

Terry Stern: I’ve actually already responded to this on your blog but I’ll say it again here.

Neither Stellar Point nor Banners Broker International is launching any type of ‘hate campaign’ or ‘blogging war’ against those who have expressed negative opinions about our company online. Every company looks to protect its image, however, I will not resort to that sort of behaviour. An invitation was sent to 4 people, 2 have accepted, 1 has refused and 1 has not acknowledged the invitation at all. So far, I have not received any dates to which any of those contacted would like to visit, but the offer stands.

I made this offer in order to allow those that would say negative things without having first-hand information, to have the opportunity to see and learn first-hand who we are, how the system operates, and have their questions answered in-person in-context rather than through text where the message can get lost or edited. Once they’ve had their questions and concerns dealt with, they can report back on us with factual first-hand experience and knowledge, whether they feel we’re legit or not, and everyone is satisfied.

I don’t like the “schoolyard rules or etiquette” like I’ve experienced on some forums/blogs. Our doors are open. If people want to know what’s really going on, come visit and find out for themselves, but to quit guessing and making a fool of themselves. They really don’t have the answers they think they do.

Finch: You were recently quoted on this blog as saying:

BannersBroker used to have regional offices set up in each country they did business in. The problem arose whereby the people running some of those offices chose to stray from the official method of doing business and implemeted their own procedures and instructional techniques. This resulted in some of the problems we’ve been talking about on the blogs and forums, where misinformation was handed out, and affiliates were told the wrong thing to get them to sign up. One such issue was in fact in the UK, where the representative there started charging affiliates for support when he should have referred them to BBI. He also signed up people under false pretenses to the tune of $4 Million which he placed in an offshore account. You already have heard of what’s going on in India.

This leads to a few obvious questions.

Firstly, is the UK representative you are referring to Ian Driscoll?

Shouldn’t members who signed up to Banners Broker under these false pretences be entitled to a full refund?

What action is being taken against the individual in question?

The official line on Driscoll’s departure was that “We wish Ian Driscoll and his wife Leslie all the very best for their new business venture.” Do you not think your UK affiliates have the right to know if their former recruiter stands accused of stealing $4 Million of their money?

** Terry declined to comment **

In Conclusion…

As you can see, Terry declined the opportunity to reply to many of my follow-up questions. He gave this reasoning:

I’m letting you know, that I won’t be responding to the follow up questions. I’m not doing this out of malice, but rather basing it on the fact that my responses are being viewed through eyes that are comparing the company to traditional forms of using ad space rather than truly reading what I’ve been describing. Even reading through your follow up questions, it became apparent that you’re still looking at BBI as though they were an advertising company and not a broker.”

“As a result of this, I’ve composed a rather lengthy post, but a comprehensive response to you and those reading your blog, regarding once again, who the company is, and how it works. Everything there is the same as has gone to different governmental organizations around the world describing who the company is and how it operates. Hopefully this time people understand a little clearer how the whole process works, and find better things to do with their time than try and twist minute details into synthetic issues for debate.

You can read Terry’s full response here.

I want to thank Terry for taking the time to answer (some) of my questions.

It would be easy for Banners Broker to ignore this blog and allow their devoted followers to dismiss the previous scam warnings as misleading lies and malicious ‘hate blogging’. Some will certainly try that tactic.

I appreciate Terry’s attempt to respond to the criticism, and I hope our exchange quells the ridiculous rumours that a ‘crack legal team’ is about to take action against me, and people like me, who speak out against the program.

Have any of the arguments put forward by Terry Stern changed my view of Banners Broker?

Unfortunately, no.

The core business model just does not stack up, and there are too many questions that remain unanswered. These were not difficult questions.

While Terry is quite within his right to refuse to comment, I reject the idea that “you’re still looking at BBI as though they were an advertising company and not a broker” qualifies as a reason for why some of the questions were passed over.

I look forward to visiting the Banners Broker HQ first-hand in March. Until then, I’m afraid my advice remains to avoid this program. If you already have money invested, I suggest withdrawing as much as you can as quickly as you can.

Moving to the USA: Final Preparations

Hard to believe we’re already 1/16th of the way through 2013, right? How are those New Year’s Resolutions working out?

Shelved until 2014? Completely forgotten? Laying in a pile of abandoned gym spandex?

Good. I’m glad we’re on the same page.

Last October, I posted about my plans to move to the States, crack the American Dream, build a house and live happily ever after.

True to form, my plans have changed about seven times since then. First I was staying in London, then I was going back to Thailand, then I was looking at the South of France, and now I’ve finally decided on Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme America.

It speaks volumes of my indecision that – in the last week alone – I’ve had emails from 3 different affiliates on 3 different continents all thinking I live near them.

No, I’m not some kind of direct marketing gypsy, I just really suck at finding the right property.

My fiancé and I both work from home, and we both like to travel, which means deciding where to move is a liberating joy, but one that can lead to episodes from The Shining if we’re not very bloody careful.

Don’t… touch… me. I’m… typing.
Don’t… touch… me. I’m… typing.
Don’t… touch… me. I’m… typing.

Renting in London: The Road to Ball Ache

If you’re going to live and work in the same building, it really needs to feel like a home.

But how can you make somewhere your home if you need written permission to hang a photo on the wall? Or to give it a lick of paint? That is the problem with renting in London, and it is the straw that broke this camel’s back.

For such a vast monthly spunkage of money, you would expect a home in return. What you actually get is a roof over your head and a pain in the arse. Several of them if your estate agent is Haart.

I want to own what I live in, but I don’t want to pay hundreds of thousands for a shoe box in Fulham. The alternative is a safe family home in suburbia where Costa marks the nearest attraction, and the next bus terminates at death. Or worse, having kids.

Ultimate bitch point: I don’t want my local food store to be a Budgens. I want to live in a country where Budgens is just a bad dream.

One of the great hooks of America is the opportunity to build our own home; something brand spanking new, so fresh we can still smell the timber.

I want something that has enough square footage to incorporate two home offices, a swimming pool and a snooker room.

She wants… to decorate it with candles, cushions and throws. Why are women like that?

Alas, America is the best choice. It’s also the most exciting choice.

You guys have a lot of cornfields. But you also have a lot of exciting, vibrant cities. New York City, Miami, San Francisco, Las Vegas… the mind reels with bright lights and a lifetime of Hollywood.

I’m sorry in advance if I besmirch any of the above with my presence.

Knock knock, America

Want to know how the immigration process for moving to America goes?

Very, very slowly.

I’m only just over halfway through the process.

Not only has the ordeal wiped crucial centimeters off my hairline, but it’s butchered at least 80% of my mornings with fun activities such as:

  • Chasing vaccination files
  • Pleading with the police for my arrest records (Disclaimer: There are none)
  • Spending time in photo booths
  • Kicking photo booths
  • Swearing at photo booths
  • Buying enough stamps to post myself around the world

I haven’t even had my medical at the US Embassy yet. There’s still a chance they’ll turn me back when they find my blood pressure reading says **AFFILIATE MARKETER**

Of course, there are things I will miss about London:

My friends and family

The hardest part about relocating is leaving behind your friends and family. I got homesick while living in Asia, and much of it was down to the false belief that I was disconnected from my loved ones. I felt like I was missing out on something, although I could never quite put in to words what that something was.

When I got home, it was great to see everybody. But people move on with their lives. They don’t wait for you to come ‘home’ to continue theirs.

Homesickness has very little to do with your location. It’s how content you feel with your day-to-day living. That means embracing wherever you are, not trying to crawl home to the nest, just because it feels familiar when your current surroundings do not.

The incredible NHS

Health care is a super important issue to both my fiancée and I. There was a point in November where we had reached an agreement that if Mitt Romney won the Presidency, we would stay in the UK. I don’t want to get overly political on a humble marketing blog, but it’s fair to say that we will miss the National Health Service that is available in the UK.

The NHS is a brilliant institution and part of what makes Britain great. It is a lifesaver for people with pre-existing medical conditions.

The infuriating but begrudgingly effective transport network

No TFL is going to suck.

I’m sure I’ll feel guilty for mocking the Picadilly Line within about 3 weeks of our separation. Even for those occasions where it really, really deserved the scorn.

It also means I’ll have to buy a car when I land in America.

For all the hate that gets directed at Transport For London, very few cities can claim to be as well connected. Until it snows.

It snows, we perish.

The ability to keep calm and STFU

There’s a certain way of life in London that can be summed up quite simply, “I won’t bother you, if you don’t bother me.

If you’ve taken the tube before, you’ll be aware that it extends to just about all lines of communication. “I won’t catch your eye – even though I’m the breadth of a nose hair away from your face – if you won’t catch mine.

To tourists, we must come across as the least social animals on earth. But to a Londoner, that moment of sweet purposeful avoidance tells us that we’re home.

The glorious tropical climate

Yeah, about that…

Moving to America from London

Show me the plane, already.

I’m hoping to make the jump across the pond on March 25th, as long as I get through the visa process in time.

It can be quite stressful to hop continents. And it will be the third time I’ve done so in 3 years, but it’s also very exciting. I can’t wait to meet new people, explore new cities and chase that elusive American dream.

Which may or may not be Taco Bell, screw you.

Make Money on Kindle: $345,000 in 5 Months?

About a year ago, I traded my overflowing bookshelf for an Amazon Kindle.

After charging the tablet for the first time, I felt a pang of guilt. Digital seems dirty for a traditionalist, but only for about 17 seconds. It then becomes a marriage of convenience.

I’ve always loved the feel and smell of fresh books.

I could spend an entire afternoon in Waterstones pawing my germs across the Marketing section. I still do, but only in the name of Showrooming.

When it comes to making a purchase? I usually land on Amazon, combing for rarities and loading up my Kindle with enough material to completely zone out and forget about London’s Central Line.

I am not the only one.

Book sales are shifting from print to digital at a frightening rate.

In August 2012, Amazon revealed that for every 100 hardbacks and paperbacks sold through their site, customers were downloading 114 ebooks. That was just two years after the introduction of the Kindle. Where might the publishing industry be in 2015?

Online, is the answer you’re looking for.

The Rise of the Ebook

A few years ago, if you told people that you had an ebook for sale, you would notice their claws sharpening in a reflex motion.

Ebooks were associated with Clickbank sales letters and products of the lowest calibre. If you had a secret to sell, or a magic formula to peddle, it belonged in an ebook.

Most reputable authors did not touch the format for fear of cheapening their art, but us Internet Marketers? We loved it.

Here’s why:

Make money from ebooks

Yes, before selling ebooks became artistically acceptable (or even widely accessible), it was all about making money.

The arrival of the Kindle, paired with the boom in tablet sales, has seen a revolution in how we consume the written word; from newspapers to novels, from University textbooks to Nuts magazine (all 14 words of it).

The ebook is no longer a vehicle for novelty products. It is the only format that makes your writing available to all corners of the world in the click of a button. That is powerful. Selling digitally cuts so many costs that, inevitably, the print book will soon become a novelty.

Showrooming has become epidemic. The High Street can no longer cope with bastards like me flicking through the shelves with a camera in one hand, and a laptop in the other.

They say that the consumer is ‘always right’. While I will admit that he doesn’t have to be such an arse about it, there is good reason why we showroom and then buy online:

Better selection, cheaper prices, user feedback, and so on…

What does this mean for marketers and writers? It means that the publishing industry is now fair game for the little man. Once protected by agents and publishers, anybody who can slap their keyboards for long enough can now come away with a bestselling hit.

Just ask E. L. James.

Kindle for Writers… and Marketers

What is it that makes the Amazon Marketplace such a lucrative honeytrap for writers and marketers alike?

Well, firstly, it’s the built-in audience.

Even for the lucky few writers who score publishing deals, the biggest challenge has always been marketing their work. How do you get book sales when your prized masterpiece is hidden behind four crates of Fifty Shades in a dark, forgotten corner of the shop?

Selling on Amazon evens the playing field considerably. Not only can we optimise our work to leap ahead in the queue, but we can get that work in to the hands of millions of customers who would never usually find it.

If you are a writer sitting on an ‘almost’ finished manuscript, perhaps one that has been gathering dust since 1997, there has never been a better time to drag your work over the finishing line. Once you’ve uploaded your file to Amazon, it is available to buy within 12 hours. All around the world.

While writing is my passion, marketing is my day job. As a marketing platform, the Kindle represents a unique opportunity to grow an audience while funnelling traffic through to your website. One of the most interesting hooks of selling on Amazon is the opportunity to enrol your work in the KDP Select program.

By joining KDP Select, you can make any of your books freely available for a maximum period of 5 days out of 90. You might be wondering, “What is the purpose of giving away my hard work for free? I slaved balls to the walls for some sales!

There are two main benefits:

  • Instant exposure – In my most recent trial run on a Non-Fiction Self-Help title, I made the book free for 2 days and it received over 1600 downloads. For an extremely niche title, this was more than I expected.

  • Free downloads affect the charts – Amazon doesn’t care whether your book was downloaded for free when it compiles the bestseller lists. Free copies means early momentum, and user reviews…

Once you get your books in to users’ hands, there’s also the chance of having the title appear in ‘Customers who liked this…‘ lists, which are invaluable for promotion if a user wouldn’t necessarily search out your title.

So, marketers, let’s say you have a website for a weight loss regime. You want to promote the course that goes with it, and you intend to use a mailing list to drive the sales.

Where do you start?

On one hand, you could invest a fortune in to paid advertising campaigns (the quickest and fastest way to gain traction, but usually the most expensive). Likewise, you could troll your own sanity by trying to crack Google for weight loss terms.

But what if you condensed some of the key points behind the course, repackaged it in to an ebook for the Kindle, and then gave it away for free on Amazon? You can use your ebook to deliver a cocktail of valuable tips, plus a subtle sales pitch for your further products.

Many titles are capable of scoring thousands of free downloads in their promotion days. This is music to the ears of a canny marketer. You don’t have to do anything to get your message out there. The audience devours it willingly.

While the money you make from Amazon on non-promotion days is unlikely to set your wallet on fire, it is a fantastic platform for getting your message in to the right hands.

Even once your 5 free promotion days are over (after 90 days, you receive 5 more), you can lowball the product at a measly $0.99 and attract an endless stream of spontaneous buys that would never have otherwise found your brand.

Note on royalties: Amazon uses a tiered royalty system. Ebooks priced below $2.99 earn a 35% royalty, while those priced over receive 70%. A book priced $0.99 will net you a $0.35 royalty, while a book priced $2.99 will get you $2.09.

How to Get Published on Amazon

It’s easy to get published on Amazon. The first step is to sign up on the Direct Publishing platform.

Once you’ve got an account, you are free to load your bookshelf with as many titles as you can muster from that abandoned folder marked ‘To Sort‘ on your desktop. (Speaking from experience here, but I’m sure many of you can relate…)

When you add a book to Amazon, you’ll be asked to provide the title, a description, the categories and some keywords to target.

  • The title – Self explanatory. Aim for clickbait with the name of your book. It needs to attract eyeballs. Check out this great resource from Copyblogger on how to create magnetic headlines. Much of the same logic applies.

  • The description – Your description is designed to read like a good blurb. It should draw readers in to what your book offers, without giving away the secret sauce (if you have any!). The description is also a great place to air testimonials and social proofing. For a new writer with a >$0.99 price point, these are deal clinchers.

  • Categories – You can only choose two, so choose wisely. Spend time researching similar books on Amazon to get a feel for where your book belongs.

  • Keywords – If a user was searching for the information/advice that is available in your book, what would that search term be? This should come naturally to SEOs.

After filling out your book’s details, you will be asked to submit a cover art. Now here’s where even the best writer has been known to get his panties in a twist.

Cover art is important. It’s more important than the 150 hours you spent crafting a masterpiece.


Because nobody is going to read a title that receives its final blessing from MS Paint at 4 ‘o clock in the morning.

Your book needs to stand out from the Amazon listings, which means studying two key variables:

  1. What colour is the eye attracted to?
  2. What typeface is easiest to read?

Choosing a colour requires that you explore the existing books in your target market and find a nice combination that stands out from the pack (whilst avoiding garish mutilations of yellow, green, sparkles and polka dots)

My advice for the typeface is to keep it simple. I don’t care if you’ve written a gothic horror thriller, or a Jimmy Savile memoir, Arial/Times beats splatters of blood where text is concerned. Here are some excellent pointers on designing your ebook cover.

I feel guilty for tempting you with a ‘How To’ guide where cover art is concerned. In nearly all cases, you will be better served outsourcing to a professional (or amateur) designer who is experienced in Photoshop.

I’ve read that it costs hundreds of dollars to get a good cover art. That’s BS. Try five bucks on Fiverr. You might not get a work of art, but you’ll beat your own MS Paint massacre.

Note: For a checklist of cover art requirements, see this article on KDP.

Once you’ve uploaded your work (remember to check it for errors, typos and all-round format butchery in the Kindle Preview tool), the only thing left to do is set your pricing.

This works on a per region basis. If you really wanted to be awkward, you could charge $0.99 in the United States while asking UK users to fork over £10. I generally don’t recommend being awkward. It is worth experimenting with a slightly lower price point in the developing nations though (Brazil, India etc).

How to Sell 1 Million Ebooks in 5 Months

Back in June 2011, John Locke became the first self-published author to break 1 million ebook sales on Amazon. He did so in the space of 5 months by selling an ebook every 7 seconds.

Pow, pow. That’s fast.

Locke’s strategy involves pricing low (usually at $0.99), marketing well, and relying on the strength of his back-catalogue to deliver volume of sales.

It’s well established that one of the best ways to break in to the Kindle market (especially writing fiction), is to have a series. You can then give away the first book for free, whilst driving your new readership to the rest of the series. If you are a good writer, a reader will pay $0.99 for your additional work. It’s a spontaneous buy.

“I put (the most famous authors in the world) in the position of having to prove their books were ten times better than mine”
John Locke in the Telegraph on his pricing model

It’s a powerful strategy, and a dangerous one for the print publishing houses. They simply cannot compete in the basement bins with popular authors.

I often joke with my fiancée that I should write a bondage-themed vampire chic thriller, then call the main characters Kristan and Robart and be done with it. I joke, but then I think… maybe I really should.

There is huge potential on the Kindle for any writer with the self-discipline to get a series finished, particularly those with a marketing background and an eye for hot trends.

Through Fifty Shades, we have already seen that you don’t need to be a great writer to sell books. You need only have one eye for public sentiment, and another for good timing.

It is worth noting that selling 1 million ebooks, like John Locke, is no guarantee that you will become a millionaire. His books are mainly priced at $0.99, which means 1 million sales is only going to produce royalty revenue of $350,000.

That’s not small change, but it’s quite an underwhelming return for such a huge turnover of units. As marketers, we hope that selling a million of anything will be enough to make us millionaires.

Then again, these numbers were achieved in the space of 5 months during the first year of the Kindle boom. I’m sure there is no shortage of dinner on Locke’s table.

My Thoughts on Kindle

I am still experimenting with how to get the most out of the Amazon platform. Here are a few tips based on what I have learnt so far:

1. Learn to hoard social proofing

Affiliate readers of this blog will know only too well that social proofing sells. It cuts through decision fatigue like a knife through butter. If you can get an authority figure (or a relatable figure) to leave positive praise for your work, it might just be the dealmaker that persuades fence-sitters to buy. Use any public acclaim in your book’s description.

2. Promote every book with a mini-site

Amazon has a huge built-in audience, but we should be aware of the dangers in becoming platform-dependent. You don’t want your entire business to hinge on an Amazon product listing.

I recommend that for every ebook you publish, you should also create a standalone website complete with Facebook, Twitter and testimonials.

A great example of a mini-site that pimps its book well is this awesome effort from MJ Demarco, author of The Millionaire Fastlane.

Millionaire Fastlane book minisite

Now, that is how you build a platform for your audience. Buy his book, too. The second half is an inspiring read.

Note: If you are selling your product via Kindle, tell the reader so! The Kindle’s little ‘Click to look inside’ icon is an established visual cue that builds trust on the back of the Amazon brand.

3. Use pen names

From what we know about ‘return buyers’, it may seem counter-productive to use different pen names for your books. If a user likes one book and searches for more from the author, does it not make sense to have ALL of your work available to buy?

In my opinion, hell no.

I use various pen names for the different genres I write in.

If you are a non-fiction writer, readers expect you to be an authority in your field. So it makes sense that you would publish all of your neuroscience ebooks under one pen name, instead of blurring your perceived authority by also having chick lit, conspiracy theories and sci-fi available to download.

If you are going to cover multiple genres, you need to either:

a) Brand yourself like a Kardashian
b) Develop multiple pen names and brand them individually

Showcasing a diverse hodgepodge of amateur expertise under one name is not recommended.

4. Use social media but don’t be an arse about it

I’ve read a bunch of advice on how to use Twitter and Facebook to skyrocket your book sales. One of the worst tips I’ve seen is that you should schedule publicity tweets throughout the day in the hope that people will click through to buy your work.

This is stupid advice. Stupidly stupid.

It’s robotic, it’s soulless and it’s damn near ineffective for those of us without a million followers on Twitter.

Promoting your work on Twitter and Facebook can be very effective, but only if you take the time to embrace a two-way conversation. Posting link after link after link on auto-pilot is a primitive use of social media that should have expired 3 years ago, it’s akin to the boo boos of a content marketing moron.

Your audience does not want to be dictated to, especially with pleads of “Buy my new book! Buy my new book!” every 4 hours.

Social media: the clue is in the name.

By all means, tell the world about your new work. Just learn when to shut your cake hole.

5. Premium bitesize content is going to explode

One of the most exciting aspects of the Amazon platform – and the low pricing strategy – is that it opens the door for a new kind of ‘bitesize content’.

Think items like:

  • Reports
  • Whitepapers
  • Niche ‘How To’ guides
  • Short stories

These are formats that the publishing industry has typically shied away from. It doesn’t make sense to publish bitesize content on a grand scale in print form, but online distribution is a game changer.

Now that we can monetize small pieces of content at a low price to a very large audience, there is a whole new frontier of premium content just waiting to be explored.

The customers are willing to buy. Are you willing to create?

Final Thoughts

The current surge in ebook sales is not going to slow down anytime soon. This is a booming trend, and it is there for the taking.

By tapping in to the Amazon marketplace, you can leverage a huge audience that has scaling potential by the bucketload.

I’ve set myself a target of selling 200,000 ebooks this year. That’s a lot of sales, and there’s a long way to go, but I’m confident I’ll get there. I then hope to use the sales as a launch pad for a traditional book deal, which is a different beast altogether.

Are you looking to crack Amazon? Have you made it a part of your marketing strategy?

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