This month we chat to online marketing veteran and entrepreneur Tony Seifart. An electrical engineering graduate from UCT, Tony has spent nearly two decades in the digital marketing space in various roles including strategist, lecturer, and speaker. In 2015 his company won the Best E-Commerce Company in Europe, Middle-East and Africa from the Business Excellence Awards, and has been nominated again for 2020. Over the last three years he has built up and sold out two online businesses as well as reading his Honours in Theology. When he is not speaking at events or lecturing, he is running his own impressive list of online companies. We pick his brain on the do’s and don’ts of building a successful business online.

Describe yourself in 3 words.

Stubborn, Loyal, and have I said Stubborn already?

When I was a kid I wanted to be…

A Fireman! My best friend Craig wanted to be a cop, and since we both couldn’t be cops, I decided to be a fireman! (you can’t defy 5-year old logic!)

Tell us about Platinum Club – where did it all start?

A few years back I came across a podcast where the guy was giving people advice on how to structure their finances to get out of debt. I bought the course he was promoting, and the information is brilliant. But I realised that nothing like that existed for South Africans – the advice he was giving was mostly relevant only to Americans.

Financial Advisors are incentivised to sell policies, not to really help you. Bank Managers are incentivised to sell you debt. But there’s no structured system to help people plan their financial futures without a proper plan.

The Platinum Club was born out of the idea of providing the resources necessary for someone to follow a structured path to create their own financial plan. Of course, we need to be careful because we’re not registered with the Financial Sector Conduct Authority, so we can’t provide advice – we only provide the tools to create the plan. Once people have a strong plan they can chat to their own Financial Advisor or CFP to put the plan into action.

We’ve now also branched out into building our own Legal App for members and partnered with law firms so that our subscribers can now access legal advice 24/7 via an App (so no wasted airtime sitting on a phone).

How do you decide which verticals to go into?

When I started out with online lead generation, the only companies using lead generation was Insurance companies, so I didn’t have any other choice. Loans and Insurance seem to go hand-in-hand, so I’ve always focussed on those two areas.

Why do some internet businesses fail while others succeed?

Adaptability is probably the biggest challenge for online businesses. The bigger a site becomes, the harder it gets to change it when circumstances change (and it’s usually at government’s whim). When regulations change, you’ve got to change. When other people see what you do, they try and copy you. They dump large amounts of money into CPC campaigns, which then drives the price up. That’s been the biggest challenge for us. Unfortunately the smaller guys can’t ride out the storm. You’ve got to pick a strategy and system where big guys can’t bully you out of the market.

Which channels have proven most successful in attracting visitors to your site/s?

In the past we used email campaigns (the CPA put a stop to that), and we moved to Social Media and traditional CPC. Native gets us a lot of traffic, but very low conversion rates. We’re excited to be partnering with AdMarula on some of our new projects though.

What is your experience from working with affiliate marketing?

Gees, I love Affiliate Marketing! It’s the easiest way to make money online – you don’t have the come up with products and services, you just sell someone else’s product!

The most valuable lessons learnt in your professional career, so far?

Cash is King. A deal isn’t really done until the money is in the bank. I’ve had so many deals signed and sealed but collapse at the point of payment.

What advice do you have for aspiring online entrepreneurs?

Don’t be afraid to dump an idea that isn’t working. Some people spend months (years?) on building the “perfect” website, that costs them a fortunate, but never makes a single cent. If a business idea isn’t working, dump it and move on.

Best advice anyone has ever given you?

Never Give Up! Never Surrender!