Age is an axis of diversity that is just as important as gender or ethnicity. While the emphasis in the age category is typically on the 50+ end of that spectrum, there are many lessons to be learned from studying those who stepped into the business world in their lemonade stand days.
Internet advertising director Aleric Heck wasted no time finding himself in college. His YouTube channel has already been hit by serious gamers in the online advertising market. By the time he landed at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Heck’s channel was in six figures – more than enough to pay his tuition fees and give his pals a pizza or two.
Impressed with his focus on his career when most children are worried about their acne, I had so many questions for this young entrepreneur. Fortunately, I recently had the opportunity to delve a little deeper into Heck’s story. What I found was a confident man who has a lot of insight for entrepreneurs of all ages.
When he landed at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst, Heck’s channel six pulled in … [+]
Serenity Gibbons: Tell us about your journey as an entrepreneur. How did you go from “just another man on YouTube” to helping thousands of customers generate eight-figure revenue streams?
Aleric rear: I started my first company in 2009 when I was only 12 years old. AppFind was a YouTube channel that reviewed mobile applications and created technology tutorials.
Starting with just an iPod Touch and a Sony camcorder, my channel began to take off after a few years. It gained hundreds of thousands of subscribers and became one of the largest app review channels on the platform. After that, I was approached by hundreds of mobile app development companies who wanted to introduce their products to their audience. This taught me that my YouTube channel was more than just a channel. It was a full online business.
Gibbons: You started your first business when you were 12 years old. Where did you get the entry fee from?
Devil: When I created AppFind, I used the money I made from lemonade stands that I had saved to cover equipment costs. My parents gave me a sense of ingenuity from a young age. If I wanted something, I just have to work for it – hard or smart – to make it happen. Every year I took the money I made from AppFind and instead of spending it, I put it back in the business and used it for my college education. Anything that was left was put into savings to cover the cost of future businesses that I wanted to start.
Until 2015, when I was a freshman, my AppFind YouTube channel was making over $ 120,000 a year. This source of income covered my years at UMass Amherst’s Isenberg School of Management. It also provided me with seed capital for my current business venture, AdOutreach.
Gibbons: It sounds like you’ve already proven the YouTube model to yourself. How did you transfer this to your current customer work?
Devil: At this point, I had started experimenting with YouTube advertising for my channel. My breakthrough discovery came when I was approached by a developer who wanted me to promote their app on my channel. When the app subsequently received thousands of downloads, the developer wanted to investigate methods to get even more traction.
At that point, I suggested running the video I was producing as a YouTube ad. The developer reluctantly agreed and gave me a $ 500 budget for a test. I took that $ 500 and generated over 11,000 downloads in a week by running the ad on YouTube.
The company was so impressed with the result that they offered me a six-figure salary with stock options. They encouraged me to drop out of college, move to Silicon Valley, and join their company. I declined her offer so I could work toward my own goals instead of someone else’s. Still, I knew I had hit something big.
Gibbons: What was the “big thing” and how did you manage to capitalize on it?
Devil: Encouraged by the success I had with this first app, I started a new company, App Outreach, which has since become AdOutreach. App Outreach promoted apps using targeted YouTube video ads. I used my existing network of app developers to attract dozens of customers and generate millions of downloads. But I knew I could do more.
I had always financed myself in the past and I wanted it to be no different this time. I took the money I didn’t pay for college and started App Outreach LLC with the $ 15,000 I made from AppFind. I would add several thousand dollars more later before my business became profitable and self-sustaining.
Gibbons: What was it like to boot a company while studying? What skills did you learn in the process?
Devil: Everything changed when I attended the HubSpot Inbound conference in Boston during my sophomore year 2016. As president of the UMass Entrepreneurship Club, I had organized a trip to the conference to bring back ideas for student marketing.
I quickly became familiar with the idea of inbound marketing. I also came across a booth promoting ClickFunnels, software for creating landing pages. It was at this point that I realized that I could not only market mobile apps, but also market companies for offers with higher ticket prices. With the help of consultants I hired after the event, seed capital I received from AppFind and a seedy team of other UMass students, I turned around and AdOutreach was born.
Gibbons: Pivots are notoriously difficult to do well. How did you manage to do that not just as a new entrepreneur, but as someone still in college?
Devil: I started like many marketing companies: as an agency, in my case for YouTube ads. However, I realized that because of the nature of YouTube ads, there was a better way to help customers and scale my business. I found that many companies wanted to train their in-house marketing teams to run YouTube ads, especially if they already had a team running Facebook ads. At the same time, they didn’t want to just sell a course with no practical implementation. So I found a solution.
Gibbons: That sounds like a hard threading needle. How did you combine digital and practical training? When did you know you had the right mix?
Devil: I created our flagship program, the AdOutreach YouTube Ads Workshop. The workshop is a 10 week program in which we help our clients create YouTube ads through a combination of training videos and hands-on help.
We found that this hybrid process enables our customers to get results quickly while training their teams on how to use YouTube ads. The process works in both the short and long term and provides our team with a scalable model to serve more customers.
The ten week process starts with a script call to one of our copywriters, who creates an initial script for YouTube ads using my original formula. From there, our clients follow a series of videos that show them how to create their ad and set up the basics using the Google Ads dashboard. We then work with our clients to help them optimize and scale their ads so they can meet their KPIs and goals. Our goal is simple: reach the ideal customer at the right time with the right message.
Gibbons: What are you trying to convey to your team when you think about your own journey? How has it affected your leadership style?
Devil: I firmly believe that your company is successful when your customers are successful. I convey this value to our entire team.
We want to make sure we are giving our customers the best experience possible. We have built a passionate, dedicated team of people who do everything in their power to ensure our customers are successful.
Our rapid growth is a direct result of our commitment to our customers. I am honored and humbled to see what we will build in the future.
Gibbons: Which skills were most helpful in building your YouTube ad business? Which ones did you have to acquire in a hurry?
Devil: The most valuable skill that helped me grow my YouTube ad business has been my marketing and leadership skills. I’ve always been intrigued by how you market to different people and what drives them to make a buying decision. I’ve also always had a passion for video editing and filmmaking. I combined these two and the natural fit was YouTube video ads.
I’ve always been a born leader. In high school, I ran events as an Eagle Scout. As a freshman, I was elected President of the Entrepreneurship Club, which helped me grow from a dozen members to well over a hundred. Now I lead a team of 35+ incredible people at AdOutreach. I have always followed this call to build something bigger as a leader than I could alone.
Gibbons: Can you describe one or more key moments of insight that helped you identify YouTube as a previously underdeveloped opportunity? How can other entrepreneurs recognize this?
Devil: I’ve been on YouTube for over a decade now. I got my first taste of the power of YouTube ads when I ran this first ad for the mobile app and gained over 11,000 users in one week for just $ 500. I was hooked.
Since then, I’ve seen the platform really grow and evolve. When I started using YouTube ads for high ticket sales, I realized that with sophisticated targeting techniques, I could get four, six, or even ten times the returns on ad spend. I have used these strategies to scale my own business and to help many of our customers get into their own seven or eight figure business using YouTube.
Gibbons: They claim that Facebook is no longer the gold standard for ROI from advertising. In retrospect, what were the warning signs for this shift?
Devil: The cost of Facebook ads is skyrocketing. Bad press and the number of companies being deplatformed from Facebook for no apparent reason, and it’s clear the ad winds are shifting.
We keep getting calls from business owners who have been closed by Facebook and have no choice but to pray that they get their account back. Even those who get their account back are finding that their lead costs are skyrocketing and that the quality of those leads has dropped.
The bottom line is that Facebook has become a “red ocean,” where competition and litigation are driving up costs. YouTube, on the other hand, remains a “blue ocean” waiting to be tapped. Right now, in the year 2021, is the best time to get into YouTube ads as an early adopter. The phase of the “early majority” of market acceptance is rapidly approaching. Although YouTube ads will be very effective in the years to come, time is running out to get that early-childhood advantage.