#55: Master of Scale and Rover CMO, Bill Kong, on Presentations to Jeff Bezos and Cutting His Marketing Teeth in Affiliate (Part 1)

Bill Kong is the CMO of Rover, the world’s largest marketplace for pet services like walks, boarding, daycare, grooming, and more. The mission of Rover is to make experiencing the love of a pet accessible to everyone, regardless of how busy you are.

Bill, originally born in China, moved to the US at a young age and studied computer science at UC Berkeley before starting his career as a product manager in Silicon Valley.

While working for companies that were ahead of the curve in enterprise SAAS (Vantive, Metreo), affiliate marketing (Amazon), and behavior targeting (AudienceScience), he realized his passion for marketing and it’s ability to interweave closely with product management and operations.

Bill ultimately ended up at Drugstore.com (now Walgreens), managing the profit & loss of the online store which brought in revenue of over $0.5 billion and turned around the direct-to-consumer lenses business, Vision Direct, a profitable element of the business that raked in over $100M in revenue.

After leaving Drugstore.com, Bill headed to Sears to become their Chief Digital Marketing Officer and branch the company into e-commerce while leveraging all digital marketing channels (SEO, SEM, affiliate, display, and paid).

In recent years Bill has developed expertise in marketing successful direct-to-consumer brands like Commerce Hub, Vital Choice and Rover. Vital Choice Wild Seafood is particularly cool, an online ordering marketplace for the highest quality salmon and other seafood you can find.

Bill holds an MBA from Kellogg School of Management.

This conversation was so fun. Bill distills marketing principles down to the essentials so anyone can understand and start leveraging them immediately.

We talked about the need for a new generation of marketers who are data scientists + technologists + artists all in one to be effective in today’s world, his appreciation for affiliate marketing, an often poorly perceived (and misunderstood) marketing channel that has incredible power for any brand that taps into it.

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Show Notes

  • Rapid growth questions! [4:00]
  • Where did you grow up? What was your upbringing like? [10:11]
  • Was that company called Vantive? [11:29]
  • Couple startups that attempted to make grocery delivery work [13:29]
  • When did you discovery you had a passion for marketing? [14:23]
  • Can you describe how affiliate worked for Amazon? [18:06]
  • What are the 3 different affiliates in Amazon Associates? [19:02]
  • What are your feelings towards affiliate as a channel? [21:33]
  • What would an incrementality study look like for an affiliate marketing test? [23:55]
  • Who do shoppers have an affinity to? The blog or the ecommerce site they were sent to? [25:41]
  • What is your marketing thesis? [26:55]
  • How online advertising is akin to sales [28:00]
  • How online advertising is a heavy emphasis on conversions (sales) [29:15]

Links from Episode

What was your favorite marketing lesson from the episode? Comment below!

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