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Forget the suit and tie — clad in his birthday suit, a pair of basketball shoes, and a smile, the founder and CEO of KlientBoost insisted that swimming in tub of Supreme Oreos (with a bottle of champagne in hand, naturally) was the best way to introduce himself to Swagger’s readers. Before the Danish marketing guru sat down for our exclusive interview, he nearly pulled out due to — believe it or not — failure to secure an ostrich.
“I was dead set on riding an ostrich,” Dane admits, showing me the alternate photo of him riding reverse-cowboy-style on a tall white horse. “The ostrich farm had a weight limit of 110 pounds for riders; I almost cancelled this interview because I didn’t want to settle for generically riding a horse.”
Whether he was serious or joking, he was completely sincere. Just as Johnathan Dane refused to wear the typical CEO costume, he refuses to wear a millionaire’s mask. Johnathan is equal parts playful and professional, as authentic in his approach to digital marketing as he is in all other aspects of his life. He strives to stand out, quoting Gary Vaynerchuck’s wisdom that people who get the most attention will win.
“I’ve never understood corporate culture of having to wear multiple masks and hide your true self. I joke, play, and mess around way more than the average CEO, and because of that, I automatically give my team permission to do the same. It liberates them and has more positive ripple effects than you can imagine.”
Hence, the importance of the ostrich — not a horse — in the photo.
“Internet marketing is like the Wild West, yet so many people think that there’s only one tried and true way to ride into success. There are millions of ways to ride a horse and countless routes to achieve your goal. Don’t assume that because everyone does something a certain way that you have to, too.”
Dane operates according to his “lemonade stand” philosophy: if the internet were a physical street filled with lemonade stands, Dane was determined to make cars stop at his. Everything from the lemons and ice cubes used to the sign and employee uniforms would be detailed to perfection.
“You couldn’t equivocally prove that either of those details would be the catalyst that caused a car to stop, but the sum of these parts would show that it’s the draw,” Dane said. “It’s all about differentiation from design.”
Air Ball Or Million Dollar Shot? How A Basketball Career Missed The Net Yet Led To A Seven-Figure Salary
Standing on a couch, dressed in a cheetah print bathrobe, and firing money guns into the air — you’d think the ever-entertaining and engaging Johnathan Dane was more of a rockstar than an internet marketing wizard. Even my interview with the raconteur felt more like catching up with an old college buddy than picking the brain of a successful leader whose company has literally published more client wins (reviews, case studies, video testimonials, etc) than any other marketing team on the planet. At this point, would you be surprised to learn that Dane took an alternate path to achieving success?
Long before he ran point for KlientBoost, Dane played for Horsens IC, a professional basketball team in Denmark’s Basketligaen League. He moved to the United States to study marine biology and pursue a college basketball career, but was — self-admittedly without embarrassment — not up to the NCAA skill level. Soon after, a chemistry class made him realize that a career in marine biology wasn’t in the playbook either.
“Once we had to start measuring in moles, I realized that I wasn’t going to have a good time.”
With uncertainty in his future, his first goal was to take control of the present and determine the fastest path to money. His father owned a mortgage company which prompted him into getting his real estate license and learning the industry under his father’s guidance. Again, the ball seemed to be in Dane’s court, until life threw him another possession change. When his dad took a two-month vacation, his income immediately hit nil.
Where does a college student desperate for money in 2010 turn to in dire straits? Craigslist.
“I started to wash and wax cars — again, it was the fastest path to money I could think of — and needed to get my message out for free. I tried leaving notes in mailboxes. Nothing. Then I folded the notes like love letters and stuck heart stickers on them. Still, no one called.”
And then, creativity clicked.
Craigslist did not have a photo upload feature at the time, which prevented Dane from showing potential clients the before and after photos of the cars he’d detailed. He uploaded source code from Photobucket to each Craigslist ad; a tactic none of his competitors used.
“I figured out how to add a visitor counter in the listing and split test headlines to compare click rates,” Dane said. Though he was cleaning a cool $300-400 each day, it was the marketing, not the manual labor, that he enjoyed.
“Ironically, this made me better at marketing but I was not getting better at car detailing. I was using oven cleaner on rims and stuff like that; no one was ever a returning customer. I was overconfident with how quickly I thought I could make money. I actually got hired in retail but bailed during orientation because it looked like it sucked. There had to be something better out there for me.”
The Makings of a Master Marketer
Fast forward to his senior year in college and Dane was raking in $15k a month with his marketing endeavors, zoning out in geology class as he optimized his clients’ accounts. His secret to success? Nothing more elaborate than learning Google Adwords and fishing for clients.
“I worked as a customer service rep for an ecommerce company in Newport Beach,” Dane recalled. “My boss paid for me to attend a two-day Google AdWords seminar in L.A. and I immediately understood the power of targeted marketing.”
Dane’s pitch: he’d lure clients in with free optimization. No catch, no ruse. He’d perform his services until the client got the results they wanted. At that point, he’d request a monthly rate and use each successful client as a case study to build his base. He also learned about blogging in college, which he then combined with his Google AdWords skills to create his first company which would eventually become KlientBoost.
“I cared so much about the details and design of my company along with the actual performance,” Dane said. “I was smoking weed, listening to house music until 3AM as I toyed around with Photoshop. I wanted to stand out as much as possible.”
From the start, KlientBoost started swinging above their weight class due to Dane’s ego and confidence. In 2016, only a year after founding the company, KlientBoost convinced companies like HubSpot to partner on infographics that placed their two logos side-by-side. Today, KlientBoost boasts an average of a 63% ROI increase in their client’s first three months.
Dane has bet on himself despite the challenger since his days on the basketball court. From shooting hoops to washing cars to becoming the mogul of his own multi-million-dollar marketing company, it’s safe to say that Johnathan Dane’s potential, creativity, and unrelenting drive to succeed led him straight to the jackpot.
Boosting Others Before Himself
“People have asked me if I ever imagined growing KlientBoost to a team of over 100. I have to be honest; I never envisioned this.”
Despite not learning to swim until he was thirteen, Johnathan Dane was never afraid to jump into the deep end of the pool — literally and figuratively. He always believed that it’s acceptable if nine out of ten ideas fail. Success is necessary for business growth but failure is vital for personal evolution. One lesson he’s learned along the way is to lead and manage with empathy. Dane’s drive and vision were the vehicles for success, but his team never saw the roadmap early on.
“A lack of empathy was my biggest failure in growing KlientBoost,” he admits. “I expected the team to trust me and stop asking questions. What I didn’t realize was that if I took the time to explain the ‘why’ behind my decisions and share all of my information, my team would have bought into my mission with the same passion and confidence that I had.”
The future of KlientBoost is destined for an IPO. Dane desires more brand affinity, a stronger devotion to social impact causes, and, one day, to step back and let someone else run the game. In the meantime, his goal is to make his leadership team millionaires by the time KlientBoost goes public.
There are a dozen basketball metaphors Dane can use to inspire aspiring entrepreneurs. In typical CEO fashion, he could have waxed lyrical about the internet marketing arena and why practicing harder than you play is crucial to winning the proverbial championship.
But, as you know by now, Johnathan Dane is anything but typical. His advice to the leaders of tomorrow?
“Have fun and take care of yourself. We all have one life. Don’t burn yourself out and don’t waste time doing anything you don’t fully enjoy if there’s a way to change it. Splurge on that trip, raise the bar on that experience, or bathe in a tub full of Supreme Oreos. Don’t ever put yourself in a position when it’s all over to have any regrets.”
Johnathan Dane’s lemonade stand may not be the best, the most innovative, or the most refined on the street — but it does have your attention and he’s having the time of his life. That alone proves that he’s already won.
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