Ashton Shanks is the Founder and CEO of Hemon Media Group, a boutique direct-response agency specializing in testing and feedback looping to scale medium and large accounts with precision and maximum ad efficiency. Ashton is the Founder of HemonX, which teaches marketers how to manage ad spending, and also the Founder of Hemon Staffing, which connects skilled marketers with businesses that need their help.
Ashton has been honored as a speaker at AdWorld, Affiliate World, and GeekOut, where he has shared his unique approaches to digital marketing with other founders and marketers. He previously served as the CEO of Traffic and Funnels, which helps high-level consultants, coaches, and experts develop lead-generation machines to scale their businesses to seven figures a year.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- [05:22] Ashton Shanks talks about the Hemon Media Group and what it offers
- [09:28] Ashton’s experience at Traffic and Funnels and lessons learned
- [12:41] A productivity guide for entrepreneurs
- [14:12] Ashton shares his experience working for Flash Technologies
- [20:25] What are hiring mistakes entrepreneurs make, and what are some best practices?
- [26:03] Tips for using paid media and YouTube ads
- [28:52] Hemon Media Group’s customer success stories
- [31:04] Marketing strategies and understanding customer psychology
- [38:30] Tips for work-life balance
In this episode…
Are you looking to take your marketing to the next level? Direct-response marketing may be what you’re looking for.
This type of marketing is all about eliciting a specific response from your audience and can be highly effective if done correctly. Direct-response marketing can help you reach prospective customers wherever they spend their time, increasing your chances of success. However, without the right expertise, executing direct-response marketing can be challenging. Ashton Shanks, a seasoned marketing professional, recommends hiring an agency to help you. He shares his journey running a direct-response marketing agency that helps businesses drive results and achieve their goals.
In this episode of the Inspired Insider Podcast, host Dr. Jeremy Weisz welcomes Ashton Shanks, Founder and CEO of Hemon Media Group, to discuss how to run a direct-response marketing agency. Ashton talks about the Hemon Media Group and what it offers, hiring mistakes entrepreneurs make, best hiring practices, tips for using paid media and YouTube ads, marketing strategies, and understanding customer psychology.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
- 80/20 Sales and Marketing: The Definitive Guide to Working Less and Making More by Perry Marshall
- Chris Evans on LinkedIn
- Taylor Welch on LinkedIn
- Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook: How to Tell Your Story in a Noisy Social World by Gary Vaynerchuk
- Marketing For Dummies by Alexander Hiam
- The Great CEO Within: The Tactical Guide to Company Building by Matt Mochary, Alex MacCaw, and Misha Talavera
- Topgrading (How To Hire, Coach and Keep A Players) by Brad Smart and Geoff Smart
- Talent Wins with Chris Mursau
- The Road Less Stupid by Keith J. Cunningham
- Relentless: From Good to Great to Unstoppable by Tim S. Grover
- Winning: The Unforgiving Race to Greatness by Tim S. Grover
- Principles: Life and Work by Ray Dalio
- “Boardroom Inc: Light Bulb Moments after 1.3 Billion pieces of direct mail – with Brian Kurtz [Big Lessons]” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “What Inspires Brian Kurtz, VP at Boardroom Inc.?” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “Losing Your Mentor & Miserable Internal Struggles with Sam Markowitz” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “[One Question] No Furniture, No Bed, No Nothing with Caleb O’Dowd of MultiChannelMarketing” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “Lessons and Reflections from Three Top Direct Response Marketers with Brian Kurtz, Richard Armstrong, and John Carlton” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “Doberman Dan: Do I Eat or Does the Dog Eat? -with Doberman Dan Gallapoo” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “[Direct Response Series] Improving the ROI of Your Marketing with Don Hauptman, Author of The Versatile Freelancer” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “Master Copywriter Don Hauptman: His Greatest Hits and What Made Them Work….” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “God, the Devil & Tupac with Justin Brooke Founder of IMScalable” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “Does God Exist? with Perry Marshall, author of Evolution 2.0” on the Inspired Insider Podcast
- “Work never ends.”
- “You can do just about anything you put your mind to.”
- “Start hiring on experience.”
- “To determine the psychographics of your target market, ask yourself, what keeps them awake at night as it relates to your product or service?”
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Cofounders Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran credit podcasting as being the best thing they have ever done for their businesses. Podcasting connected them with the founders/CEOs of P90x, Atari, Einstein Bagels, Mattel, Rx Bars, YPO, EO, Lending Tree, Freshdesk, and many more.
The relationships you form through podcasting run deep. Jeremy and John became business partners through podcasting. They have even gone on family vacations and attended weddings of guests who have been on the podcast.
Podcast production has a lot of moving parts and is a big commitment on our end; we only want to work with people who are committed to their business and to cultivating amazing relationships.
Rise25 Cofounders, Dr. Jeremy Weisz and John Corcoran, have been podcasting and advising about podcasting since 2008.
Insider Stories from Top Leaders & Entrepreneurs…
You are listening to Inspired Insider with your host, Dr. Jeremy Weisz.
Jeremy Weisz 0:22
Dr. Jeremy Weisz here founder of inspiredinsider.com where I talk with inspirational entrepreneurs leaders today is no different. I’ve Ashton Shanks of Hemon Media Group and Ashton, I always like to point out other episodes, people should check out other podcasts and your headline of your website. And people could check it out, thehemongroup.com is the architects of direct response. This really inspired me because I geek out on direct response and you’re smiling because I want to hear your favorite but some of the past guests I’ve had on because I went on, I think whatever a year-long journey of just only seeking out the best direct response marketers on the planet. So Brian Kurtz was a good friend. I did a couple episodes with Brian, he’s awesome. Check out those. I had some Gary Halbert protegees on. Obviously Gary Halbert isn’t around. But I bond Halbert, his son, Sam Markowitz, Caleb O’Dowd, John Carlton, Doberman Dan was on to all great some other direct response. I love Don Hauptman most people have never heard of these people. Passion, okay, so Don’s retired but he’s been doing it for 30 years. And he came up with, generated multi, multi million dollars for the companies he worked for and speak Spanish, like a diplomat was one of his famous he breaks down the ad and why he was so successful on the interview. It’s just gold, but no one’s really heard of Don. We had Justin Brooke on the podcast, who I’m sure you know, and Perry Marshall is also one of my favorites. He wrote 80/20 Sales and Marketing. So feel free to check that out. But before I formally introduce you and go into whatever else, I’m gonna say, who are some of your favorites in direct response?
Ashton Shanks 2:17
Yeah, I mean, right off the bat, Gary Halbert is probably what I’ve based a lot of my study around and really try to mimic and learn his flow and do the best that I can but played make PS person propolis. Naturally, you’ve got the David Ogilvy, Eugene Schwartz, I mean, with the Brian Kurtz, so cool that he had the rights to sell that book, but thank goodness, right. But yeah, Eugene Schwartz. Probably the all-time favorite right there. But yeah, I mean, everything direct response copy.
Jeremy Weisz 2:45
Yeah. Paris is awesome. And I think he’s rejected me seven times. So Paris, if you’re listening, I’ve gone to dinner with him. He’s like, yeah, he likes to keep to himself, but maybe at one point. So I want to say this episode is also brought to you by Rise25. At Rise25 we help businesses give to and connect their dream 100 relationships and partnerships. And how do we do that we actually help you run your podcasts we do accountability strategy, and the full execution production action, we call ourselves kind of the magic elves that run around in the background that makes sure it makes it look easy for the host to develop the relationships and run their business. And then we do everything else. For me, the number one thing in my life is relationships. And I’m always looking at ways to give to my best relationships. And I found no better way over the last decade to profile the people and companies I most admire and share with the world what they’re working on. So if you thought about podcasting, you should if you have questions, go to rise25.com. Probably on my Inspired Insider, I’ve probably answered every possible question someone can have about a podcast so they can check those out. What mics should I buy? What software what tools? And every other question, so check them out. But I’m excited to introduce Ashton Shanks. He’s the founder and CEO of The Hemon Media Group. And at the age of 24, he started one of the fastest-growing direct response ad agencies in the United States, going from zero to $11 million in under three years. That’s unbelievable passion. And this happened after managing over $100 million in advertising spend for companies like Google Dell Click Funnels, Jay Shetty traffic and funnels, and many, many more, and I don’t know how accurate this is Ashton, but I read that you develop the nickname the paid traffic Savage, and it’s because there’s like that you see a Spartan over his right shoulder though Spartan mass, so when he puts that on, do not mess with them.
Ashton Shanks 4:46
That’s what I’m media buying.
Jeremy Weisz 4:48
Exactly. He combines the power of direct response and digital storytelling and really has a passion to serve the world beyond marketing as well and created organizations like HemonX which we’ll talk about, he teaches marketers the skills they need to manage and spend profitably, for any company. So, Ashton, thanks for joining me.
Ashton Shanks 5:08
Absolutely. It’s my pleasure. Thanks for having me.
Jeremy Weisz 5:10
So talk to people about the Hemon Media Group and what you do. And while you do that, I’m gonna show your website. So people can say, the architects of direct response.
Ashton Shanks 5:22
And actually funny, just as I jump into it, the reason that’s from is really our name Hemon. So, I’m a little bit of a history nerd. And I love history and human was actually the nickname for the architect of the pyramids at Giza. And the concept was that really the pyramids is something that we don’t really still know how they got built. It’s a wonder of the world. That’s what we do at Hemon, with direct response advertising, so, but I started it, you know, really kind of out of necessity back in 2020. We started in April of 2020. And I was a director of marketing and advertising for a company called Traffic and Funnels at the time, and really had to move away from the state, living in Nashville at the time had to move back to Missouri, where family was in, there was some stuff going on over there. And so I had to transition out and really just needed, sometimes to pay the bills. And I was very fortunate enough to it built a reputation for my practice and methodologies in advertising and media buying. And so it was just a matter of starting to take on clients and say, yes, and we shot off like a bottle rocket, I think we had hit about 118k, in monthly recurring revenue in like 80 to 86 days from starting. And really, it was just kind of a rocket ship that we were trying to figure out. And really what we do is we just focused on direct response advertising from social media, Facebook, Google, YouTube, TikTok. And that’s what we really started to do. And really, as we started to grow the company, we realized that our biggest constraint was hiring, it wasn’t getting new clients, it was just hiring good team, people that I could trust to manage accounts with the same low level of excellence that I had, when I started that, I probably made a mistake a lot of founders had, which was I just assumed I could pay for talent, if I pay people a lot of money. That’s how I get the talented people that to do the right work. And so I did that, then it completely backfired. It went against, went back into my face. And I realized that most advertisers and media buyers in the market today, especially if you look at the bigger agencies, which is where I was hiring from, they’re trying to spend money really well. They’re not great marketers. And so I had realized I needed to build a program that could train people into my methodologies, because I realized what was on the market, it just didn’t exist. And so I built this little mini program that I had internally, that I would hire someone out, put them through my program, they would take my exams, and if they pass my exams, I would allow them to touch my client accounts. And eventually, that started to do so well, that other companies were asking me to consult for their teams train their teams, but didn’t have time. And I was like, hey, I’ve got this thing that I created for my team, you can try it, see if it works for you. And it started to work really well. And so that eventually became what is our next company HemonX, which now trains other in-house companies, or marketers or business owners how to run media, like I run media. And so that did really well, then clients started to do so well, in it, business owners would come in learn the training, they would start growing their companies with the trainings. And then they would get to the point where hey, I can’t run media buying anymore. And I can’t run advertising and need to be a CEO. Could you guys just go find someone, train them like you trained me, and I’ll hire them. And so then that started last year beginning and last year, we started human staffing, which is essentially just hey, you need a media buyer, you need a marketer, we will find them, we will vet them, we will train them it for you. And so that’s essentially what the human group is. It’s a combination between our main company, the agency, and then human x, and then human staffing.
Jeremy Weisz 8:56
Love it. There’s so much to dig in there, Ashton, and I want to talk about some of the hiring mistakes. But before we get to that, I want to back up to Traffic and Funnels and what you did there. Because people hear your story, right? Zero to 11,000,000 in three years. And the reality is, it wasn’t an overnight success, right. You had built a reputation you had sharpen your sword for many years before that. So talk about what you’re doing at Traffic and Funnels.
Ashton Shanks 9:28
Yeah, ironically, I actually started at Traffic and Funnels as an unpaid intern. My background in marketing, it started way when I was young, I fell into marketing when I was 16. But my start in Traffic and Funnels was as just an intern doing essentially anything that no one else didn’t want it to do. Because I had seen the company I really liked the company. And I saw the results they provided for their clients and I wanted to be around them and so I essentially reached out when they had a free internship was like whatever you don’t want to do, I’ll do it and started there, I started just doing organic social media, some emails, some copywriting, and just kind of worked my way up. And that company again, really grew really, really well with their founders, Chris Evans and Taylor Welch and I got to work right next to them for around three years, I got to learn so much. And, and really, I think when I started with them, they were doing anywhere from 250 to 280,000 a month. And over that time, you know, when I left, we were doing 1.3 to 1.5 million a month and I personally was managing around a half a million a month in ad spend. So I got a lot of experience there.
Jeremy Weisz 10:37
What were some of the services that were offered at Traffic and Funnels.
Ashton Shanks 10:41
So they were essentially a consulting program for other entrepreneurs that are either the solopreneurs, or have a smaller team of less than 15. And you wanted to learn how to acquire clients through social media, through paid advertising. And so their program, I believe, was around 10 to 15 weeks. And they would train you on all of the fundamentals or core infrastructure that you need when it comes to servicing clients, how to charge the right prices, sales, how to do organic marketing, how to really build out your program structures, and then a lot of it, I think the big thing that people really loved was the mindset and community aspect of it. Taylor is a very prolific thinker, and is incredible at training others how to lock in the right mindset, which, as you know, is most of the work is just mindset, having the right mindset for growth.
Jeremy Weisz 11:33
What’s some of the lessons you learned from Chris Evans, and Taylor?
Ashton Shanks 11:37
So many lessons, I think a lot of it was the true grit, the ability to develop self-awareness on how I think about problems, how I think about challenges when they come my way, productivity was a big side of it, in fact that you know, it’s Taylor’s productivity guide is something I still use exactly. He trained it to me. And that was, you know, over five years ago, something I do every day now, but starting with needle movers working backwards, but I think a lot of the, they were a very high growth, but high expectation, high standards of excellence company. And because I worked so closely to them, that meant even more so for me. And I think for me, I had to develop one very good discipline, and very good high standards of excellence, but really, the ability to think creatively under pressure under challenge.
Jeremy Weisz 12:28
So if you’re watching the video, I should actually within hands reach, grab something and hold it up. And so must be pretty important. Talk about the productivity guide, is that a daily thing or weekly thing?
Ashton Shanks 12:41
Yeah, so on one side of the paper for those who want to get to watch the video, but on one side of the paper, you have your weekly map, right? So each of those boxes is a day of the week. And then on this side, essentially what you do, you start on this side, but at the top section of it, you essentially outline what are my big three, my needle movers for the week. And the problem is entrepreneurs is like work never ends. And there’s a million things to do. But the problem is most of us will work eight hours a day and feel like we got nothing done. And the real, the big thing there is just focusing in on what are those big three needle movers. And then there’s underneath that is the section called radar, which is that area to brain dump, all of the things you know you should do, or would be nice to do, or you should probably check on but are not a focus for you. And the goal is to remove all of that stuff for your brain, focus on the big three needle movers. And then on your daily map, you essentially make the big three for each day. And each of those big three only can go after completing the Big Three that you’ve set for the week. Right? So it’s just reverse engineering. What are the things that are move your company forward? And then focusing those into only three to four Max things that you do a day?
Jeremy Weisz 13:46
Yeah. And we will I promise get into mistakes and hiring because you’ve learned a lot from that. But I do want to talk about 80 million. And what that means, because that’s also you cut your teeth even before Traffic and Funnels before that. What is 80 million? What’s the context for that? 80 million the refunds.
Ashton Shanks 14:12
80 million refunds? Oh, the 80 million encountered? Yes. So when I was 16 I started working at this company called Flash Technologies. And so essentially this lady she sold cell phone parts out of our garage, right and one of my buddies worked for her and asked me to come help them out. And I guess they liked the work I did. And so they offered me a job and for me at the time it was just a sweet I get to go work with one of my best friends after school and help package up orders in the garage play some music is great. And so anyway, that company started to grow pretty fast. When I started working for them. They did about 200k a year not bad for a garage business. But they sold cellphone parts on eBay. And so as a company started to grow a few months later we moved into a storefront and I just kind of started, anything that they needed help with and whether that was patching orders or starting to do some logistics or ordering parts in from China because that’s how they got the parts. They had a business partner that lived in China, you would buy parts from the Samsung and Apple factories and then he would send them to the US and then we would sell them on eBay. And so eventually they got to the point where they hey, we should start a marketing department. Ashton, you’ve been here the longest? Do you want to be our marketing director, and at the time, I had no idea what marketing was, but director sounded awesome in my title. And so I said yes. And I went to Barnes and Noble that day, and I picked up two books, Jab, Jab, Right Hook by Gary Vaynerchuk, and then Marketing For Dummies. And those were my first two books in the marketing. And I got to experience so much of that company, we grew really, really fast. Long story short, after about three years of working there, as a marketing director, we were doing about 3.2 million a month in revenue. And we were shipping out of this warehouse, we had moved into a bigger warehouse doing about 1000 plus orders a day, we literally had semi-trucks coming up to our warehouse every day to load our orders in. And anyway, two years after I left, I moved on to another company to try to spread my wings as another marketing director. But anyway, I found out that they actually got raided by the FBI. And if you look up Flash Technologies, Springfield, Missouri, you’ll see an article probably from Homeland Defense, or Department of Justice saying, 60 plus-year-old woman out of Nixa arrested for $80 million in counterfeit sales. So it’s technically my first case study have ever had. And it’s the most publicized, it’s probably one I just don’t talk about much but a 16-year-old kid helping grow this company in e-commerce, but that’s where I learned a lot about marketing and commerce.
Jeremy Weisz 16:45
I’m surprised as I should, after, you know, researching and looking into that, that you didn’t go into e-commerce.
Ashton Shanks 16:54
I think at the time, I didn’t understand it. Because at that time in my life, I never wanted to be a business owner or an entrepreneur, I wanted to be a pastor. And so I just always, I always had the behavior of anything I was doing. I wanted to be the best app. And so at that time, even while I was working there, I was getting paid $28,000 a year, which is nothing for what I was doing. But we were holding.