Tuesday November 2, 2004 12:57 pm
Interview with Steven Holmes, OfferCentric Co-Owner
Ever wonder what goes on in the minds of those who run companies that just give free electronics away? How do they do it? Where is the industry going in the future? What free stuff can you get next? Recently, OfferCentric burst on the scene with three websites offering expensive electronic gadgets for free. Unlike Gratis Networks, OfferCentric didn't leave members waiting for their gear for months after they have earned it. We were able to chat with Steven Holmes, Co-Owner of OfferCentric. Steve talks to us about what goes on behind the scenes at OfferCentric, new offers coming up, and a few new ideas they have up their sleeve.
Steven, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions. For the readers who are unfamiliar with you, could you tell us a bit about yourself and your position within OfferCentric?
Sure, I'm one of the owners of OfferCentric and handle most of the customer support and less technical aspects of the company. I've played various roles in the affiliate marketing industry for over 4 years and have some experience with basic web development.
When did the company start, and what was the motivation behind it?
We started about 6 months ago, planning, doing research and coming up with our business plan. The actual company formed only a little over a month ago and our sites went live on the 16th of October so we're very new in that respect.
Our motivation was mainly that it's a great business model if done properly. Also we saw plenty of room for innovation and evolution. We've got a lot of ideas for new forms of incentive site and new twists to add. We plan on doing much more than throwing up a hundred cookie cutter sites with different gifts, this is only the beginning.
Q. What do you say to those who think you are running a scam, or who just think you are a "Gratis Ripoff"?
As far as being a scam, I think the fact that we've only been in business for several weeks and with our next order, have shipped out over 70 items, proves we are not a scam. There are many forums and guide sites providing user testimonials and photos of the gifts they have received. We want to run a legit business with long term potential, not scam a few people and be on the run, there's just no sense to that.
Being called a "Gratis Ripoff" doesn't bother us, we know quite well that Gratis was far from the first to do incentive sites, point based or referral based. This business model has been widely used for quite some time and isn't for any one company to claim as their own. While we do many things in a similar fashion we also do many things differently. We didn't just throw a copy cat site up in a weekend, we refined the process and will continue to add new features.
We're sure others will copy our ideas and we have no problem with that. You can't succeed by coming up with a couple of ideas and betting all your chips on them. You have to stay dynamic and come up with new ways to evolve your business or someone else will.
How has your company been doing so far? Have the profits been decent enough to this time that you will be able to stay in good business?
It's still very early but we expect that we'll be doing quite well as things pick up. So far we're still running off our startup capital but we expect to be profitable very soon. We don't see any reason why we won't be in business for a long time.
What kind of growth did you expect, and how is that number in comparison to the reality?
We were surprised at how fast it grew that first weekend we launched. We weren't exactly sure what to expect, we thought it would probably ramp up slowly and grow faster and faster. What actually happened was it grew very fast, then smoothed out to a nice steady growth which worked out great for us. We didn't want to grow to fast and be in the position where we have users on back order for months or go a week without replying to their emails. We're working hard on streamlining the sites and our customer service tools to keep orders shipping and email turnaround times at a minimum.
Approximately how many items have you shipped to your members thus far?
With the next order going out tomorrow we'll be up over 60 orders and about 70 items total.
You seem to have differentiated yourselves from other sites by offering different brands of products and giving your members a choice, as well as offering "bonus" items. Have you seen a large margin of members who qualify for the bonus?
We wanted to offer users a choice and plan to offer more choices. We
listen to what users suggest very carefully, we know that our sites are nothing without users and with the growing number of other incentive sites, it's important to offer what the users want. The bonus items have been successful to different degrees across the three sites we currently have up. So far many of the people who have gotten their free primary gift and went for the bonus gift got them both.
OfferCentric currently has three successful websites running. We are coming up on another holiday season, and product releases are the norm this time of year. With the iPod Photo, Nintendo DS, the myriad of digital cameras, and the soon to come PSP, does OfferCentric plan on offering any of these items in the near future?
We will be doing the Nintendo DS as soon as we can be sure that we won't have people on back order for too long as recent articles suggest that it will be a hard item to come by for a while. The iPod Photo we'll also be doing very soon on the PVPs4Free site as was suggested by a user of ours [Editors Note - The iPod Photo has been added to PVPs4Free.com as of press time]. We'll also do the PSP just as soon as it comes out.
We've got a good range of sites planned which we hope will appeal to gadget lovers and more mainstream users. We want to mix it up a bit, we've been reading various forums and have been keeping tabs on what users ask for the most and I think they'll be happy with our choices.
Could you let us in on what the next OfferCentric site scheduled to go live will be?
On the record is fine. We've got two new sites coming out this week and another possibly next week. We've got a new type of incentive site planned which is a unique business model and we hope will prove to be as popular as the traditional referral based sites.
Where do you see the future of the incentive web sites going forward? It seems that all of the sites have the same offers on them. Do you have different offers you plan to make available, or will your members soon be out of options?
We're always looking for new offers and add them as soon as we find them, we already offer about twice what other sites do and plan to offer as many as we can.
I think that there will always be incentive sites in some form. They've been around for quite some time and they constantly evolve. As I mentioned before we're doing our best to keep thing fresh and interesting. As long as there are advertisers who allow incentive sites to run their offers, I don't see sites like ours going away. This is an issue though, as more and more incentive sites pop up, advertisers will see more and more false leads due to users
trying to defraud the sites. This will lead to more and more advertisers disallowing their offers on incentive sites and could create problems for the industry as a whole.
We do want to look out for the advertisers as well as our own business to keep a balance and allow sites like ours to stay for the long term. This is one reason why we are strict on fraud and don't offer instant offer credits.
Do you have anything else you wish to address with the readers?
I'd like to address some of the questions that we saw in the forums on Gear Live that didn't get asked to clear up some issues that we get a lot of emails about:
1) Instant credit offers:
We get asked about why we don't do this like Gratis does. There are two reasons...
First, not all offers support this feature so to keep thing simple we treat all of them the same.
Second and most importantly, some of these offers can take a week or more to report to us, by this time we might have to either approve and ship the item(s) and hope that we get credit or make the user wait on hold until all of the offers report which seemed like more of a hassle for everyone involved. Also, this can lead to more users defrauding the advertiser as well since they can turn right around and cancel their accounts, etc. This not only creates issues for us but
for incentive sites in general as the advertisers will stop allowing their offers on incentive sites if they get too many false leads, this hurts everyone.
2) Canadian user support:
This is still in the works and there is no solid date for this to go live. Shipping items is not an issue but finding enough good offers that allow Canadian users is but we are sticking with it.
3) Why does it take so long to get offer credit:
Since we don't do instant credits, we have to wait for the advertiser to report to us. Some have a 1-3 business day turnaround and some like Netflix take 2 weeks. Some advertisers do overlook user credits and we have put in place a form that users can fill out for this. We take the info from this form and consolidate it into a file which is sent to the advertisers to review.
4) Do we really not spam people?:
As it states on our sites, we don't sell or share any personal info with anyone except to ship your gift(s). We don't believe squeezing a few extra dollars out of our users is worth betraying their trust and causing them grief. We don't like getting spam and have no intention of contributing to this problem. We've seen other sites like PrizeCube taking up this approach as well, hopefully this will become the standard as other sites stop selling user info as this gives incentive
sites in general a bad rep.
Thanks to Gear Live and all of our users who participated in contributing questions. We really do appreciate the opportunity to get in and answer your questions and hopefully our users are happy with the job we're doing so far. We're always open to new suggestions, ideas or criticism and we'll be putting user polls in place soon to
make it easy to gather that information. We do want to be the best incentive site network there is and we need lots of user feedback to make that happen.
Gear Live thanks Steven Holmes of OfferCentric for his time.
- Andru Edwards
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