Ben Lerer was my personal highlight on the first day of SxSW. The founder and CEO of Thrillist took one hard look at the audience, one long sip of his chilled beer, and then blew Ballroom D into pieces.
Great corporate hair, a grey t-shirt and a daredevil overnight beard… he looks like a lost skater, but do not get fooled by his bad boy appearance: one quick look at his online Crunchbase resume shows that Lerer was among Ernst & Young’s 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year Award Winners, Vanity Fair’s Next Establishments, Crain’s 40 under 40, Forbes list of Most Powerful CEOs Under 40, AdWeek’s Young Influentials, Entrepreneur Magazine’s Top 5 Entrepreneurs of the Year, and Silicon Alley Insider’s 100 Coolest People in Tech for six years running.
Above all, Lerer is the co-founder & CEO of Thrillist Media Group. He took the company from a niche newsletter for geeky young males to one of the most disruptive media companies on the planet by cleverly doubling down on mingling content and commerce.
“When reading our very own newsletter one day, I saw an ad for a company called JackThreads. They were selling clothes that we’d covered on Thrillist. I realized they had the supply for a clear demand we helped to create.”
What happened next, was stunning: Lerer bought his advertiser JackThreads in a daring move. And his lasersharp vision on how a medium and a fashion site could work in perfect symbiosis paid off.
Today Thrillist Media Group consists of three main brands: Thrillist that covers on cool urban food, stylish drinks and travel; Supercompressor is all about lifestyle; and JackThreads, a fashion brand.
Lerer does not only sell ads anymore: he sells shoes, tons of T-shirts and pants. And his move propelled Thrillist wel above an annual revenue of 100 million hard American dollars, effectively getting the total business 10 times bigger than before.
Dare to diversify
“I had to diversify” says Lerer : “Media is democratized. Everyone can use publishing tools. Social is on the rise. Data is available to everyone who wants it. “
“I wanted to turn my readers into buyers, and my buyers into readers. A mediacompany should be close to the costumer’s wallet, in the costumer’s home, in their mind and in their hearts.”
Forget storytelling. Let’s start story selling!
Ben Lerer is convinced that using content in the sales funnel helps you sell in products that your audience truly cares about. Using content paints the ideal canvas for creating the optimal moodset, and bringing the moment of transaction right next to it in time and space pays off.
“It’s nice to be the guy who dared and succeeded. Looking backwards, it was an excellent move. Others now start to move in the same direction. I think there is still future for people who are willing to think broad, deep, and different.”