Marketing · Advertising

Is There a Way to Pay Marketers a Commission, Similar to Salespeople?

Andrea H Special Projects Director

April 9th, 2015

This Dog's Life (.co) is growing and we are looking to bring on a marketing person. While we have a small monthly budget for marketing, we don't have a lot to pay the person. While this may be a sign it is too soon to bring someone on, I was wondering if there are other options? I realize there is equity to offer and a deferred salary but any other model?

I am mostly focused on having the person drive viewers to the site via paid advertising placement and was seeing if anyone does a sales model. So for money received through ads on the site, they could get a cut of it. Is this common? Or would the better route be to possibly just hire a third-party to manage these ads?

We are just really looking to find viewers in an efficient and quick way.




Alexandra Damsker techophile. entrepreneur. lawyer.

April 9th, 2015

There are a lot of models.  LOTS.  There is no perfect way to do anything, and anyone who tells you "don't do this" or "always do that" generally has a very narrow amount of experience.

When dealing with very little cash, the things to try are:

1. Find a True Believer.  These are the best.  People you can bring on board as a team member who believe in your company, your mission, and your future are the absolute best you can get.  While you may not want to think about things like equity or deferred salary, that's basically what all core team members are doing, and these people do anything and everything they can, including using contacts they have, working overtime, etc.

2. Barter.  Someone has some skill or group of skills that a marketer wants.  For example, I've got a great branding and marketing guy.  He has lots of clients.  Some of them are going through corporate or business issues that require an advisor with significant legal and/or business background, both of which I happen to have.  I advise the companies, and get their goodwill and his expertise.  See how this works?   Figure out what you have, and how you can make it work.  I've got deals for lots of different things, and keep that all-important out-bound cashflow to a low trickle, while building my network and goodwill in quick fashion.  (Yes, it increases your workload.  But who said starting a company was easy?)

3. Work out a shared deal with other start-ups.  You probably don't need someone full-time, and you need the exact same services as other people in the same stage.  Form a mini economy of scale, and batch-buy some hours from someone, which also maximizes the marketer's odds that one of you will make it past start-up and actually become a full-time work project.

4. Figure out how to do some marketing yourself.  It doesn't take much.  There are a bunch of books on how to create your own buzz/ PR/ marketing.  Start building it yourself until you have enough cash flow to pay a retainer.

5. Consider a small salary from a portion of directly generated gross margin, plus a vesting amount of equity that begins to trigger on reaching a certain amount of salary, further milestoned.

There are other ways, but those are off the top of my head.  If you need it, you can make it work.  Just make sure you need it, not just want it, so you don't make a deal you don't want but are stuck with.

You may also want a probationary period.

Kind regards,

Alicia Childers Innovative Digital Advertising Leader. Strategic Thinker. Expert Building High Performance Teams-Digital Media Marketing

April 9th, 2015

Andrea, Interesting question. As you can often buy more endemic advertising and some PPC on a results based model, but rarely ala carte from a sub contractor . I am a Director of Digital Advertising for a large corporation, but organize a group of digital marketers that I mentor, who freelance to earn additional income, and hands on experience, on a flex schedule. We offer just that as an option. While there is a set up fee for writing copy for setting up the campaigns, targeting, goals, etc and minimal monthly "management fee", beyond that it is a pay for performance model. Of course their has to be an agreed upon attribution model- linking Adwords and google analytics is usually a standard both clients and advertising specialists trusts. This is for a straight PPC campaign. If you are looking for visitors you likely would want a combination of PPC and display. Display performance metrics and expectations of course differ, but can and have worked in that model - however you have to factor in cost of the design of the display ad. We have a graphic artist but of course that can also be provided by a client as well. Feel free to reach out if you want to know more about either the research we have done on the digital advertising models for small-mid size businesses, or if you want to know more about the group I work with. Alicia Childers Sent from my iPhone

Nitin Agarwal VP Business Development and Marketing

April 13th, 2015

My 2 cents.  Lead generation / audience building in initial days in a sacred process - a lot of learning of how your product and your idea is perceived.  Keep it in house and as close as you can get

Bryan Beckstead CEO and Founder of www.kommunicon

April 8th, 2017

Andrea, Join the club !! I find myself in the same predicament as you are, a small start up, looking to get eyes on my web site.

For starters, I joined here today, looking to mingle with like minded people, with the same problems, hoping to find answers.

You mention that you want to find viewers in an efficient and quick way ?

You also mentioned that you may too early in the process to have the funds to pay someone?

I have found you are going to have to pay for the traffic, in one of two ways, pay someone to do the work for you, or do the work yourself, and pay in sweat equity.

Only you know where you sit and what would make the most sense for you.

I personally think that if you can squeeze the time in, make room for it, doing the grunt work, the web site visits, blog posts, joint venture connections, that is the best route to go. Making connections at this stage in your growth, the same as myself, you find and establish partnerships that can lead to huge improvements to your business.

Best of luck, feel free to contact me if you feel I can be of further help.


Bryan Beckstead

Heather Bothwell Managing Director at 30 Miles North

April 9th, 2015

Hi Andrea,

You are going to want to look for someone who is well versed in "Performance Marketing".

Avoid "brand advertising" such as boosted visibility, engagement, fan followings, and content performance. (All important parts of the big picture but not as trackable and can waste budget quickly.) Make sure the strategy is purely geared around either trackable sales conversions or sign ups, especially if a commission incentive is involved. I'd definately set some benchmarks and a timeline based on your current traffic and what you are wanting the end goal to look like. - Heather Bothwell

Alex Eckelberry CEO at

April 9th, 2015

To answer your question: yes.

However, you will likely sacrifice on the quality side. Good demand gen requires quite a bit of skill. You can blow a ton of money on bad marketing. 

Now, that being said, there are independent contractors who work with various sites to promote them, drive social activities, etc. I've seen some good work done there, for not a lot of money.  You might look into that option.

You might also look at a boutique agency; the good thing about an agency is that it's all variable cost -- you're not stuck with an employee if they don't work out. The bad news is that I've seen hit-or-miss results by agencies.

In the end, it's probably best to do it yourself. I would suggest that if you're doing a lot of feature editing, it's actually easier to hire a freelance features editor than it is a freelance marketer...


April 11th, 2015

Hey Jivko, why don't you stop being a typical spamtrepreneur and actually share what you have to say?


April 9th, 2015

Hi Andrea. You say your goal is "to build up unique visitors to our site", but that reads more like a strategy rather than a goal. What would you get if you had more unique visitors to your site?

I tend to think of goals as about achieving something of "value", in the economic sense. I apply a litmus test that, if it doesn't increase my happiness, or if I can't eat it, wear it, or live in it, then it's notintrinsically"valuable". Everything else then, as far as work and earning are concerned, are just strategies to obtain value.

If the goal is to make money via advertising revenue, it seems to me to be sort of backwards to pay for advertising. I'm not a marketer, though, so maybe it takes money to make money here. However, everything I've read lately has said that advertising is constantly dying system and the only people who make money off of it are the ones who can invent new types of advertisements that consumers don't immediately recognize as advertisements, to stay ahead of the curve for people figuring out the patterns and learning a blind spot for them in their consumption patterns.

Also, having spent a small amount of money on advertising through Google AdWords to gain traffic on a site, I found that it was really just not worth the money. Google Analytics was telling me that I had a certain level of repeat users that turned out to be complete fantasy; I didn't even have 1% of the number they were claiming. When I cut the advertisements off, I went back to the only slightly more than the number of users that I had gained organically before the advertising push. It certainly wasn't worth the $5000 I had spent.

If I were you (and I suppose I am you, because I'm in a similar situation), I'd be looking towards figuring out a good monetization strategy that does not involve ads (if you haven't already), then try to build organic traffic towards it, notadvertisements. I personally don't have the time or caring to be an innovative advertiser, not the sort that can stay ahead of the curve.

Mike Masello

April 10th, 2015

I'm echoing some of what Sean said above.

Before you invest the time and money (on ads), what is your long term goal?  Are you just looking to throw wood on the fire to see if the product catches on? Is there a retention plan? Analytics setup to monitor and analyze falloff?  How are you getting your current traffic?  Are they returning to the site?

The lure of paid advertising to drive traffic is strong, but unless you're selling a product that you can get a direct ROI on it doesn't seem to pay off long term.  If you spend $5-10k on driving traffic, say at $0.50 cpc, that would bring 10-20k visitors to be introduced to your product.  Once you turn off the spigot what needs to happen to make that a good spend, or what needs to happen per visitor to keep you spending the money. 

Andrew Lockley Investments & consulting for tech startups

April 9th, 2015

Commission junction or affiliate window