Ed Crain is the founder and president of Kingstar Direct and Kingstar Media, a “direct response media agency” based in Canada. The company has successfully leveraged the “power of television and radio” to launch itself to success and change the DRTV business model in Canada, altering the market forever. With the agency’s support and expertise, clients are able to “reach Canadian and international consumers” through effective and innovative “direct response media solutions.”
For over 30 years, Ed Crain has worked in “entrepreneurial product launches and brand building.” He has also spent many years working in “strategic media campaigns that drive ROI across multiple platforms.”
At Kingstar, Ed Crain brings his “extensive experience in direct marketing and television production,” enabling the company to respond to the “new ways in which consumers interact and connect.” Through Kingstar Media, his experience and expertise also drive the agency “into the new world of surround sound marketing.” The company helps clients “communicate across all channels with one voice.
Through his work at Kingstar, Ed Crain continues to redefine “direct response and how it can drive marketing strategy,” whether by “building brands, selling direct to consumers, or using direct response as a way to drive web traffic or retail sales.”
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Jerome Knyszewski: Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Ed Crain: I got started in the television production business more on the entertainment side before getting into advertising and media. I think the easiest way to explain how I ended up in advertising is that I was, and am, fascinated by good story telling and I aspired to become good at it. Put into the context of advertising it became — how could I tell a story about this product or service and how could I do it in an impactful and measurable way. A mentor said to me once -If you put your head down and work hard at something you love the rest follows. That is really what I did. With the help of fantastic teams and co-workers.
The fun part of the early days of DRTV was that you didn’t have to wait long to see if anyone liked, listened to or took action because of your message. Like digital advertising today — the response measurement is immediate. From those early ads came the building of a commercial production company and a media placement company. Create the message. Deploy the message. Response = modify and re-deploy. It’s a motivating and rewarding process.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you tell us a story about the hard times that you faced when you first started your journey? Did you ever consider giving up? Where did you get the drive to continue even though things were so hard?
Ed Crain: I think there are many times when you start a business that you think about giving up. Quite simply it’s hard to be in business EVERY single day and stay motivated and not let disappointment creep in. I think really working at something that you love is very important, but you must learn to experience and prepare for disappointment. I think the hardest thing when you’re in the business of creative messaging is working on creative that you believe in and being so excited to deploy it and then getting the message back that it didn’t work or that it failed miserably. In the case of a half hour infomercial it can be hundreds of hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars all for a big disappointment within days of going to air. I tell people that in this business -and I think in any business sometimes you just have to get amnesia or apply the first rule of Italian racing car driving — throw out the rear view mirror because what’s behind you doesn’t count.
You must be willing to get knocked down keep getting up. Be determined to succeed and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Help from teams, co-workers, friends, and mentors. Sometimes it takes a helping hand to get you out of the dirt. Don’t be afraid to ask for it.
Jerome Knyszewski: Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘takeaways’ you learned from that?
Ed Crain: The funniest mistake for me maybe in the beginning was that I would get so wrapped up in creating winning stories with clients, production teams and getting the creative “out” that I’d forget that it was a business. I’d forget that I had to do the accounting- pay bills send out invoices -. I had to pay taxes I had to file tax returns. It always seemed like I was chasing my tail when it came to doing the paperwork and it took a long time to build the discipline to run a business. I must say it wasn’t funny then but all these years later, it kind of is.
Jerome Knyszewski: Based on your experience and success, what are the five most important things one should know in order to lead a company from Good to Great? Please share a story or an example for each.
Ed Crain: I would say inspire. Motivate. Do the hard, strategic work. Execute and just don’t sit still. Because what got you here will probably not get you there. And really, I say that because you constantly have to be innovating and adjusting to current business conditions. You have to be willing to let go of maybe what got you there in the past and not kind of sit back and say we’ve got we’ve got the answer all the time because you don’t and so I think great companies innovate and are willing to make the necessary changes.
Jerome Knyszewski: Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven businesses” are more successful in many areas. Can you help articulate for our readers a few reasons why a business should consider becoming a purpose driven business, or consider having a social impact angle?
Ed Crain: I think as a business owner it’s a relatively new but welcome insight that having a purpose driven business is a wonderful goal. I think that new generations are coming into the workforce and valuing that purpose sometimes more than they’re valuing money or other accolades. What they want is that sense of association with a purpose as a company. Our management team is beginning to look at programs to involve employees and more ways to have an impact with our suppliers our customers and our audience but it’s an ongoing effort and I think we’re all striving to find a more purposeful reason to work and to succeed.
Jerome Knyszewski: As you know, “conversion” means to convert a visit into a sale. In your experience what are the best strategies a business should use to increase conversion rates?
Ed Crain: Analyze the data — Over and over again as attribution is still subjective in many verticals. It takes a deep dive to get to the granular data that can help tweak messaging and offers to find increased conversions. Test. Fail. Adjust.
Jerome Knyszewski: Of course, the main way to increase conversion rates is to create a trusted and beloved brand. Can you share a few ways that a business can earn a reputation as a trusted and beloved brand?
Ed Crain: Today I think it’s really focusing on delivery and customer satisfaction. I love watching good unboxing videos where the products first impression is positive. Keep working on that. The first 1–2 minutes of that unboxing experience is critical. Never be satisfied and always chase improvement.
Jerome Knyszewski: How can our readers further follow you online?
Ed Crain: You can find me and Kingstar on LinkedIn.
Jerome Knyszewski: This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this!
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