In our ongoing series of ADOTAS Conversations, we turn our attention to the affiliate marketing game and one of its top players, Jennine T. Rexon, President of Rex Direct Net — home of Rextopia and Rextrack products.
Since 2001, Rexon has taken a sizeable bite out of the affiliate and lead generation fields with her respective brands, and now she’s headed into new avenues with joint ventures and other projects. ADOTAS had the chance to sit down with the usually press-shy exec, and get her take on the past, present and future of online/affiliate marketing, as well as why she’d prefer to be known as the “Cinderella Woman”.
ADOTAS: So what do you guys do at Rex Direct Net, and what are you currently up to?
Jennine: We’ve been in business since 2001. Predominantly, our focus has been on affiliate marketing and lead-generation. Our affiliate marketing brand is Rextopia and our lead-generation services brand is Rextrack. That’s predominantly what we’ve been focusing on in the last four years.
The latest is that we’ve just formed a new joint venture company with Strategic Financial Publishing. Basically now, we will be more well rounded with not only representing products but owning them. Plus, we’ll have the in house capability to support more sophisticated technical requirements of our clients.
A: How did the name Rex develop?
J: I was in the living room one day and I said to my brother, “Hey, wouldn’t it be really funny if I had an affiliate network called Rextopia?” It was kind of one of those things. I don’t know where it actually came from, it just kind of came out. But in terms of the actual whole dinosaur theme, it comes from my name — my middle initial starts with a “T ” and my last name is “Rexon”.
A: Ahh, T. Rex?
J: Yes, so that’s where the whole dinosaur thing came from.
A: Now it all makes sense.
J: It was fun. And I think that the dinosaur is memorable as an icon, so I just kind of went with it.
A: So how did you actually get involved in the whole affiliate marketing/online marketing game?
J: My brother started in the business before I did, three years prior to myself. He was and still is very successful at it. I had a great job with PricewaterhouseCoopers as a management consultant, and loved what I did, but needed a change in lifestyle because I was starting a family and needed more flexibility. My brother suggested that he could teach me what I needed to know. Since there really weren’t books on internet marketing at the time, I took him up on it. Although I have to admit, I was skeptical at first. I couldn’t believe a guy that sat at home all day supposedly not doing much was making very much money, and I needed to support my family! Needless to say, I gave the marketing business a go and have become successful at it.
A: In terms of what you’re seeing in how the affiliate marketing game has changed and the online marketing game in general—what are some of the trends and challenges for your specific company and your specific industry? What are some of the hurdles to keep it evolving, basically?
J: Wow. It definitely has changed a lot in four years. We were one of the first direct-track clients. I’d say we were one of the first ten? Now there are over 150 networks like ours. There are a lot more choices for publishers than there used to be. I don’t like to think these networks as competition, but as choices. Publishers have a right to be choosy and particular. It keeps RexDirectNet on our game because it’s important to know what affiliates want and to meet their needs to keep them engaged as the industry changes.
Similarly, on the advertiser side, is real competition to get exclusive contracts for programs to keep your network unique. I think some of the challenges associated with that whole trend in the industry—from a publisher’s side—is that a lot of them are becoming really good shoppers, looking for the best rate on the deals they can get anywhere.
This puts a lot of pressure on networks to cut margins or come up with unique products to market. Another challenge on the advertiser’s side is that in my opinion some companies that are taking advantage of advertisers, not delivering what they promise. I think the basic [rule] is to know who your client is, and make sure they have expectations you can manage. Our industry is so fast-paced, you have to really be flexible: have a plan A, a plan B, and a plan C.
I watched Cinderalla Man last weekend—have you seen that movie?
A: It’s on my Netflix queue, I haven’t seen it yet.
J: You really need to see it, and maybe this won’t make much sense to you until you see it, but in that movie—I hope I’m not giving it away—it’s about a boxer before the Depression that’s really successful, and then during the Depression he suffers a lot of personal hardship as a result of the economy. And it fuels his desire to be successful when he gets a second chance. Even though he may not technically be the best boxer, his drive and motivation to win is so strong that he overcomes a lot of obstacles.
I think it really spoke to me, which is sort of how I feel about the business. I really have a real personal drive and desire for my company to be successful, and successful by my own measure, not by anybody else’s, and by my own standards, not by anybody else’s.
That’s why I can’t say there’s a lot of competition out there, because I really don’t see it as competition. The only competition I really see is myself and my company, and making it the best that it can be. Perhaps it’s a bit ignorant in terms of perspective, but I certainly am not ignorant when it comes to the business. My eyes are open and I’m looking around. But in terms of setting standards, I’m always measuring myself against how much better I and my business can be.
A: Yeah. Because then you get preoccupied with what the competition is doing, and you lose focus of what your standards are.
J: Absolutely. So, when you see Cinderella Man, think about this interview. I’d like to be thought of perhaps as the “Cinderella Woman! ” (laughs).
A: There you go. So what’s next for you guys? What’s coming up for Rextopia?
Well, with the combination of Strategic Financial Publishing, it will now give us the ability to build additional exclusive programs in-house as well as service new exclusive clients with products and services that we couldn’t offer them before. We now have technical staff in-house that can build web pages, that can build validations, increase our quality and increase the possibilities for growing our network.
I can’t disclose the details at this time, but in general terms, I’ve also hired someone full-time to work on the development of a new division of our company, which I can talk more about in about a month. We’re starting up a whole new—related— business that I actually worked on under RexDirectNet for about two years. I’m taking that chunk of work, branding it, and going to market.
I found a niche within Internet marketing that in my opinion has a very promising outlook, and I’m investing in it. So, in addition to starting our new company, we’re starting up a new division, and growing our Rextopia and Rextrack brands. All the while, I personally am managing our staff and clients—that’s probably enough to keep anyone busy — oh yeah, and being interviewed!