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Today I’m excited to chat with a remarkable entrepreneur and innovator in digital marketing. Kevin Polley is the man behind ARP Reach, a powerful email marketing tool. ARP Reach has been pivotal for many leading names in internet marketing, offering advanced functionality that rivals even some of the highest level subscription-based autoresponder services. Kevin is also the visionary behind V2 Movement. We’ll find out more about that, but this really underlines his commitment to providing top-notch digital solutions. He’s also the founder of Mutual Advantage, a marketing firm which showcases his expertise in various aspects of online business and digital marketing, so let’s delve into Kevin’s journey and discover the innovative approaches and strategies that he has employed to stay at the forefront of the digital marketing world. Kevin, welcome.
Well, hello. Whatever time it is, wherever you are, thanks for listening.
Well, it’s good to have you with us, Kevin. Now, I guess we should start with asking if you can just share a little bit about your background and what initially inspired you to venture into this crazy world of digital marketing and online business.
I think the best answer for that is I needed to make money because I’m totally unemployable. I started off in 1999 on this online journey, and that was when the internet was in its infancy and I bought my first domain name and at that time we didn’t have WordPress or anything, so I went and took the time to learn how to write HTML.
And I put this page up and I suddenly realised that, well, how do people find this page that I’ve created? There’s more to this story, so I’ve got a page that was trying to sell, I think it was gardening services at the time, and I just realised no one’s going to find me. And that led me into the rest of the journey, which has involved becoming an SEO expert using schema.org, creating the UK module for one of the original open-source shopping carts, creating a hosting company, getting involved in data transit.
Literally from 1999 to now, it’s been one roller rollercoaster of a ride, and I’m just glad to be here.
I can imagine. It all started with your green fingers, is that right?
Got a lot to answer for those green fingers. When was this and what were you doing prior to that? Did you have a job? I know you said you’re unemployable, but before that, what were you doing before that?
I’m also a coded welder, so from an early age I never used to like getting up in the morning for school, and it became problematic when employers wanted me to turn up at a set time in the morning, and at the age of 17, 18, I never drunk, never ever drunk when I was younger than that, but with the hangover at 8:00 in the morning, it wasn’t good. And I suppose my story could go back to when I was 11 and I realised that mum and dad weren’t giving me enough pocket money, and my uncle turned around to me and he said, “Well, why don’t you start a little part-time job?” And that was the gardening. And if you’re that young, there’s not many of the older generation that don’t need a helping hand, and I tried to be polite, I tried to do a good job and they paid me.
And then I got a job in an off licence, and from there, the owner of that off licence, he taught me about working to lists and planning what I was going to do, making sure the customer was happy, so I always had that entrepreneurial streak and it was always based on if I need something or I want something, I have to be responsible for making my way in the world. What was the point of being paid a pound an hour if I was working for someone back then when I could get five pounds an hour by working for the older people helping them, and they were happy to pay me for that?
Then I became a DJ when I was 16, and as a DJ it brought together all of my passions at the time, which were music, drinking and women. And the money that a DJ on the circuit was working as an hourly rate was phenomenal, and it just made me realise again that having that freedom and the flexibility to manage your own life, manage your own time, set your own value, it would be the definition, the defining moment for me.
And since then, all of the skills that I’ve learned, the different businesses that I’ve started up, not just internet publishing businesses, printing businesses, it was that I’ve got to start something up to make a little bit more money or give myself a little bit more time so that I can spend more time playing music or spend more time on holiday or something like that.
What came first in terms of your online endeavours?
The first major thing in my online endeavours was the UK module for Zen Cart. Back then the internet was a new thing, people were being told, “If you’re not on the internet, your business will suffer.” And in the 1990s we had a nine, six ort modem, there was none of this face-to-face and video. Web pages were words, you couldn’t even get pictures on them back then, so there’s been this whole technology.
And when you wanted to have a webpage, you then needed to find a way to sell it, and that was Zen Cart back then, which was an open source shopping cart. And the problem was that the developers were all American, so if I wanted to sell a batch of leaflets or something like that, the states in the dropdown for the order form were all American and there was no UK module, and I realised that actually there’s a bit of an opportunity here.
I went in and I contacted the post office, got their first list of counties, and then Royal Mail, their list of drop zones, and I hacked, quite literally… I wasn’t a coder then, I’m not a brilliant coder now, I’m a hacker, and that doesn’t mean that I’m like Anonymous and I’m going to be getting into your bank account, it just means that I take a little bit of code that’s here and a little bit of code that’s there, find a little bit of knowledge and make something work to do what I needed it to do. My first step was the UK shopping cart for Zen Cart, and that allowed a couple of thousand people back then to set up their shops and distribute their products around the UK.
It was one of those systems that just took the internet by storm as well, because it allowed people finally to make sales online. Then after that, you moved more into software development yourself, is that correct?
From then I used the software development skills that I picked up, hacking PHP, MySQL together to make a module for Zen Cart. I then realised that the next problem in my journey was going to be how do you get found in the search engines? You’ve now got a website, you’ve got your shopping cart platform, you’ve got a way of distributing the goods, but who and how are people going to find the product you are serving or selling in this big online web? I got into SEO at that point.
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