On this bonus episode, we talk with Charles Tichenor IV from Disrupter School. We talked about why agencies and clients ultimately fail on Facebook, his passion for turning corporate workers into serial entrepreneurs, and so much more!
Charley has spent over 10 years in the Digital Marketing industry.
He has personally managed the spend of hundreds of millions of dollars, and his clients and brands have done well over $1B in revenue.
He was a founding member of the Facebook Disrupter Group, while helping 310 Nutrition grow to a 9-figure brand.
His Facebook Ads MBA Program has many dozens of students from around the world, and Disrupter School has helped thousands of people over the last 5 years.
He has devoted his work to helping others achieve success, and ultimately disrupt, and potentially displace, the existing digital marketing advertising agency industry as a whole.
In This Conversation We Discuss:
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Charles Tichenor IV
What makes businesses successful is far more about how you operate your business, what you prioritize and how you project manage your team and your time.
Welcome to Honest Ecommerce, a podcast dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. I'm your host, Chase Clymer. And I believe running a direct-to-consumer brand does not have to be complicated or a guessing game.
On this podcast, we interview founders and experts who are putting in the work and creating real results.
I also share my own insights from running our top Shopify consultancy, Electric Eye. We cut the fluff in favor of facts to help you grow your Ecommerce business.
Let's get on with the show.
Hey everybody, welcome back to another episode of Honest Ecommerce.
Today, I'm welcoming to the show, Charles Tichenor IV.
He is one of the most regarded Facebook experts out there. Instagram as well.
Welcome to the show, Charley.
Charles Tichenor IV
Thanks for having me, man. This is gonna be a lot of fun. I'm super excited. We've been chopping it up on the internet.
I can't wait to put this on camera and help some people be more successful, reduce that stress, increase that income.
Why not work less and be more successful? That's generally what people need to be doing.
Absolutely. So first and foremost, I don't think that you woke up one day and said "I want to be a Facebook marketer."
So how'd you end up here?
Charles Tichenor IV
I've lived a couple of lives. I will say that I ended up getting a job at my first agency in Los Angeles because I had to move to LA because the Hulk Hogan sex tape ruined my radio career on Sirius XM, because Hulk Hogan and Howard Stern were the funders of the radio station.
And when you have sex with the boss's wife, and he films it, and then you sue him, it's a bit of a mess.
That being said, I got a job at the first agency in LA and I basically automated all my work. I did the work of the entire department for 3 months.
I got let go because I was last hired, first fired but some of the accounts that they had with me. Started with another agency, ended up on AMC show The Pitch, which was the reality show that occurred after Mad Men. It was on for two seasons.
They put me on the last episode of season 2, and immediately canceled the show. They realized their mistake as soon as I got on the air.
But we won the business of 1-800-Flowers. And then that agent tells me that 90 days since I started that agency.
And then again, I got let go basically on that one because my VC was also my attorney and he signed the paperwork. And instead of paperwork, he decided to just take it from me.
And started another thing and I had a biggest client fire me in 2013 because he put $100 in the Facebook ads and he's like, "I got more than $100 and I paid you $2000 a month."
Now we're still friends but he's just like, "I just don't need to work with you anymore." So I licked my wounds and the next day, put my credit card into Facebook and started promoting my band.
And within three months I was running paid media for Jamba Juice and Viking River Cruises and stuff at their AOR. And within 3 months - 6 months of that I was doing stuff for...
I was running all the paid media for Robert Rodriguez movies and Jay and Silent Bob and so many smoking stuff.
[It was the] first agency that was on Vine, the old video social media network, but they had a paid media arm.
Charles Tichenor IV
And then 9 months from that moment, I was a supervisor at Omnicom. I was spending like a million dollars a day for CBS, Nissan, Activision, Levi's… Brands like that. Henkel...
And the beautiful part about that was I got the Facebook side of the business, and they were basically starting that division. And there was one Facebook rep for everybody west of the Mississippi River, which it sounds unbelievable. There's only one person for it.
Although you have to remember that at the time, that basically meant that there were 20 people advertising at the agency level at that time. Big, big people. There were less than 100, folks.
And so I just got to basically be there from the beginning of how Facebook works. We're talking about $1 CPMs, before interest groups existed, before the Pixel existed.. And so I just... Everytime we came into the office, we'd go out for 2 - 3 days, chop it up.
I helped build out the engineering team, the product team, the Messenger team, the data team, and I just basically was the right guy at the right time with the right background: a bit of computer science, I did an MBA, very entrepreneurial. And I just...
Yeah, it just it was just a matter of luck and opportunity and preparation. And since then I've just been basically at the forefront of everything that Facebook does.
I launched the very first lead gen ad. It was actually for Nissan to try to put a set of test drives. Fun fact, it was $50 to get a lead on the very first lead gen ad. 1 out of every 2 leads would show up to a dealership and buy a car that was $25,000.
So if you're doing the math at home, that's a 250x ROAS on alpha, on the lead gen ad. Now, ROAS is complete nonsense but that was fun.
I also did the first PTA ads with Macy’s, where we had to pay this Australian agency $50,000 to set up an Excel spreadsheet of every single line item for every single variant of every single product that they had on their store.
And just between them and Disney, and Progressive Insurance, and MGM Hotels... The list just goes on and on and on and on and on.
But I've just been lucky enough to kind of be there at the forefront of everything. Because I was the first guy in a room and everybody was still running Gemini and Yahoo ads.
Shout out to Yahoo ad experts. I don't know where you are anymore but hopefully you still got a gig.
And I've just been there like that was the thing to do. And that was 10 years ago, basically.
So I've just had this luxury of spending hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars for the people, driving well over a billion in revenue, like designing Apple's Ecom and D2C efforts. And it's just been a fun ride.
I've also had the luxury of getting let go or being forced out and a lot of agencies because I don't necessarily work well in the office environment because I listen to loud music, and coming in with cowboy boots, band t- shirts and ripped up jeans.
And I would leave early if I got my work done, which if you had an agency you leave before the sun goes down, you're a scoundrel and a lazy person.
But I found my right fit, which was more D2C teaching and growth.
And what I've learned building 7 - 8 - 9 figure businesses just what brought me here, over the last few years of training agencies and multimillion dollar brands. I couldn't be happier.
Absolutely. And I've been following Charley on Twitter, and we'll make sure to link to that in the show notes. ctthedisrupter on Twitter.
I've been following him for a while. Him and I have been in each other's DMs quite a bit. And you have a few... These days, it breaks down, I would say 3 offerings.
So you do take on clients these days. I'm assuming they're very select people that you'd like to work with. And then you do more coaching and training as well.
Do you want to talk about what those things look like for you and honestly, why is that all you do?
Charles Tichenor IV
Yeah, great point. So the "taking on" stuff, I do advisory board level work. So like, there are a few brands that I work with, because I have equity in that business and I'm basically the de facto CMO as a partner.
One of those businesses is Underoutfit, a shapewear brand. They did $200,000 a month in spend and revenue [is] about break even more or less each month, because they just keep growing. They make $200,000 a month for us but 6 months later, we did $1.2 million. So I have a grape of a watermelon from them and I do that.
Also there's a CBD business, an away goods business... A few of those.
So I am actively doing the work every single day, especially that much higher level, which I appreciate buying on every platform imaginable from enlisted display networks to a couple million a month on Facebook.
So I'm always doing stuff which I really enjoy. And then the teaching side I built up... We're building this thing called Disrupter School. And it's built off of... The first part of that is what's called the Facebook ads MBA program. And it's just an immersive teaching environment.
It's not a course. There's like 10 courses.
It's not a mastermind. There's an entire separate group you have lifetime access to.
It's not just group coaching. We have a weekly call every single week.
And when you buy it once, you have access to that in perpetuity.
There's also one-on-one time, there's well over 100 hours of video, dozens of Ebooks and lectures, questions and answers. And really what I'm doing is...
I've realized in my experience, especially over the last 4 or 5 years since Facebook went to OCPM, which basically eliminated the idea of ABO, or single posts, or broad targeting, or non-broad targeting, like interest groups, and lookalikes, and retargeting and all that fun stuff.
I realized that 80% to 90% of the people that are currently entrepreneurial that have been let down by agencies over and over again, or media buyers that are trying to start their own thing, or people that work at agencies, how they learn how to do Facebook generally comes from somebody who's been overworked, underpaid, and poorly trained by somebody else who wasn't good.
And so there's this systemic lack of expertise, and competence, and success, and understanding. And I found that my bread is butter. You know what I mean?
I'm good. What would I do if I didn't have to do anything in the world? And I was like, "I could do anything I wanted." I play music and I would teach people how to be successful.
And so, my band has a gig tomorrow night. We got a gig this weekend. We play all the time. But also, I do this other thing. It's the flagship product. It's the Facebook ads MBA program.
But basically, I'm taking folks from day 1 or year 5, to 90th - 95th percentile. And it's not just media buying because media buying is something…
If you're running Facebook ads for your business, you should not be spending more than 2 or 3 hours a week max actually doing any work for these Facebook ads.
So the rest of it is project, and team, and time management, for profit, and for insight, and for growth. So a lot of what I'm really doing is basically CMO development. A lot of my people come in, they get hired...
The people that are media buyers get hired as the Facebook guy or girl and end up being the de facto CMO of the business. They're looking to make sure that they can just buy Facebook ads and be okay.
And then there are 20-hour 30-hour work weeks that get punched down to an hour every couple of days and they start building up the rest of their skill set. And I'm just passing on what I've learned from…
One of my bosses was vice president of Guthy-Renker. She's literally the person that invented the "But wait, there's more" tagline and an infomercial. Her name is Marina Randolph. Rock star.
I met a lot of bosses just like that, right. One of my old bosses was the guy that built Classmates and Reunion.com. And he has a new SaaS product. And we brought him to 9-figure monthly. I had a 7-figure monthly profit target on paid media with him. And it was great. We had…
I've just been around so many really great people that have a proven track record. And so what makes businesses successful is far more about how you operate your business, what you prioritize, and how you project manage your team and your time.
So since media buying is a line item on somebody's responsibility, something that takes... I spend more time walking my dogs than media buying. And I spend on a brand $50,000 - $60,000 a day.
So when you have that perspective, you can start to use the rest of that time to start developing the business and growing.
Because "Why am I only getting $50,000 a day? Why isn't it $100,000? What's busted in the business? Let's fix that."
And so I can teach people that stuff. And what I found from that is my biggest focus is "How do I help create jobs? How do I help create happiness and put food on people's tables and put money in their pocket to do life changing stuff?"
And for me, when I started to make that my focus a few years ago, I've got people all around the world that they're just seeing that success. I assume... Yeah, shoes.
In India, [they] have a Kyocera smartphone right? Not a Google, not an iPhone, nothing of that sort. He was making $50 a month media buying for American companies, and then paying peanuts, and he was stoked on it.
We went through stuff and about 9 months afterwards, he's making like $5000 a month. So he bought his entire family a house. That is amazing. I have stories like that forever.
And the fact that I can take something that people think that they know that they need to do, but it's completely overwhelming and they're confused, and there's so much missing information, and competing ideas and everybody's got like their version of success.
What I tried to do is just say, "We can worry about what works for you. But let's just establish some empirical facts... Some hardcore facts based on empirical data that are inarguable and build a strategy that works for you off of that."
And basically 90% of that is the same for everybody. And the fact that I now have a community of folks around the world that have all gone through that role helping each other is just amazing.
Every single day, I get life changing stuff. And I would just much rather do that than try to run a brand where I have to have calls with Taiwan at 3 o'clock in the morning about shipping. I just don't want to do that anymore.
And I also don't want to worry about writing big reports so that every time my phone calls, I'll just be "Please don't spy on me. Here's you ROAS."
I was like, "I know how nonsense that is."
And I've done that at levels where the executive is wanting a 9-figure business. I just don't need that anymore. And so now I get to take my opportunity to really just teach people.
And I'm super excited that that's moving into what we call Disrupter Schools. We're actually bringing in the world's best thinkers in spots.
Because what I found is the majority of the people that are really popular, the majority of the people that have a big following, and they engage on stage and speak all the time, very rarely, those people have any clue what they're doing.
They're definitely not the best person in the room with a job. The smartest people in the room are 5 steps ahead of them. So I've worked with the smartest people. The problem is they don't know how to teach. So what I've done is I've standardized and basically...
I forgot who it was, but it says "We now know how to get successful. Turn yourself into software." I forgot who that was. Please check that.
If you know [who said that] comment below, like what that was because I really want to remember so I can quote this person accurately.
Please, internet. Help me. You're undefeated so far. Help me out.
They've said "Turn yourself into a software, then you'll be really successful."
And so basically, what I've done is I've gone out to the CEO of Warby Parker, or the world's best consumer psychologists, or brand positioning experts, and basically found a way to take their knowledge through a standardized flow that's basically like, "What You See Is What You Get" software thinking.
Fill in the blanks.
And now I can take their knowledge out of their head and make it available for other folks. And so Disrupter Schools just kind of have a bunch of these instructors.
They're all best in class but you'll never see them on stage and you could never book them for the term because they're like, the consumer psychologist. It's $20,000 a month to have her answer the phone. No one's ever gonna be able to do that.
But you could take 15 - 20 minutes of your time, that'll make a 7-figure difference in your business. Why not make that readily accessible to people? And so I am going to do that.
And honestly, I'll be completely straight up. I think that the middling ad agency business model that we've seen grow, especially since 2018 - 2019, when people say Facebook was easy. Now, it's hard.
But they also were set up against the backdrop of a 10-year booming economy. And now we don't see that. And the way to be successful on Facebook isn't to make a report where you can lie to your clients, you actually have to be good at business.
That middling agency model is effectively obsolete. And if I can basically put out of…
If I can change, if I can undermine all of the people that are a liability for people's success, and instead make that success part easier for people to achieve for themselves, or have a catalogue of folks who are excellent for bespoke support, I'll do that all day.
Because my inbox is full every day. Dozens or hundreds of messages sometimes of people who are on their 4th agency, and it's just not working.
And it breaks my heart to know that people have to give up on their dreams and like it's costing people jobs, and happiness, because they're trying to build a business and some agency that legitimately doesn't care about them has put some 24-year old kid that's never run a business, on the account of...
And that kid's being overworked and underpaid, and he's poorly trained. And that person's future is put in the hands of somebody that has no conception of how their business is run, and they're taught to value things that don't make any difference to the bottom line. And that to me is...
And I've been able to turn those people around. And that's what I'm doing now. It sounds altruistic. Believe me, it costs money.
I'm doing okay but I get to make the world a better place and I get to create jobs and happiness.
And I think that is not aligned with what I did when I was running and training ad agencies around the world.
Absolutely. So these days you're looking more to make impacts on the individual level, change that freelancer's life and help him be more valuable to his clients in turn changing those clients lives.
Charles Tichenor IV
Yeah, Absolutely. And to be fair, like, I get to see it every day. I had some people over to my house this weekend, this one guy, Jared, was a graphic designer.
And he heard me on Clubhouse like 2 years ago because I was like a big Clubhouse nerd for a minute.
And he went from a graphic designer working at a Kayak company, to now he's hiring his brother to work at his agency and he's one of the best one of the best Facebook designers in the world for...
If you have outdoor near vertical, high ticket items, and you're trying to grow your business, he's one of the top five people I know. And I've been doing this thing for like 10 years. And like, this is a guy who was...
I like to call him affectionately like a "Photoshop Jockey". And now he's...
He literally runs the media for 80% of the kayaks sold in America. And he also does... We have one client...
We have one student at the MBA program that's now one of his clients is this guy, Carl, that runs this fly fishing company called Epic Fly Rods: $800 - $1,200 bespoke fly fishing rods. Who's gonna sell that? Jared will and it'll crush. And we spent...
That thing happens all the time.
I did an interview with a student yesterday, Lesley from...
She's from Liverpool, but she lives in Manchester. I was taught that I had to be very specific, because apparently she moved to the dark side.
I don't understand London but apparently it's a big deal. She was like...
She described herself as "Miss Corporate". And she's now starting her second business since joining last year and she joined to try to learn how to do it, to try to make some things work.
And she was going to use her existing vegan bakeries as her backdrops to just learn with, having no intention to the fact that now this vegan bakery is completely successful business, and she's wanting something else.
So I'm turning like serial entrepreneurs out of people that had day jobs.
And I asked her about it and was like, "How is she going? Are you less stressed?"
She's like, "I don't even have stress. I don't even think about it anymore. This is easy, it's fun. I just need to go do what I want to do."
And it's sort of just like "If I get that every day, why not keep doing it?" It's just amazing. I thoroughly enjoy that.
And also, what I love about it is that, because I'm exposed to so many people all the time, I get these problem solving efforts of repairing people's ad accounts and their businesses.
And it's funny, all those like talking head folks I was talking about before, a lot of home run agencies, a lot of their clients have become students of mine.
I know how they run their accounts.
I know their gaps.
I know how they're doing things.
I know their communication.
I know their strategies.
I know their internal information because I've seen everything that they do.
And I've heard a lot from multiple students complain about that person or this business or that, and I fixed it.
So when I come to talk to people about how to be successful, I can directly speak to "This is how the person who's managing the account was doing it. I know, because I've run... I've helped like a dozen people that have also worked with that person and now they're successful." And that's not to say ill of anybody else.
But it means that while I'm personally running a couple million dollars a month in just Facebook Media, I'm also seeing folks to $50,000 - $100,000 a day level, and like getting in there and repairing their thinking, and repairing their accounts, and repairing their priorities, and project management skills. And the turnaround is to make progress in the first week.
And in the first couple of months, their legs are totally different. And I just love it. That's fun. I enjoy it.
Believe me, the businesses I work with pay the bills, all this other stuff is just fun. And it's just like setting up my family for me.
And to be completely honest, I got a monkey on my back, too. 10 years ago, I was a junkie for 10 years as a touring punk musician, radio personality. I got sober. I know the difference between like, "Am I gonna get dope today or food?"
I've had that conversation with myself for years. And now my biggest problem is like the pool in my backyard is a month and a half late.
I'm doing okay.
And I just want other people to be that happy and that confident and that successful because you deserve it.
Absolutely. You've been talking a lot about mindset through...
It's a theme that ran through all of your answers today.
So if people are interested in learning more from you or maybe potentially checking out these programs, where should they go? What should they do?
Charles Tichenor IV
The best place to go is facebookdisrupter.com, or disrupterschool.com, or just DM me. I'm not shy. I'm probably too active on social media.
But I respond to every DM, I respond to every comment, I respond to every, you know, reply and tweet and everything. It's time consuming. But I care.
If you take the effort to put yourself out there to ask a question, I want to make sure that you get that respect. And it also helps me understand where people are at.
If you don't understand something, let me know. And that I found that when one person is willing to ask, there's 1000 other people that want to ask that question.
And so please, if you are interested, or you're struggling, or you're just not confident with stuff, if you reach out to me, I can give you an answer. I can steer in the right direction.
I can ask you the questions that you should be asking yourself to help solve those problems.
And if you need any additional help or resources, I've got a newsletter that goes out every week, I have a new ebook that comes out every week.
And other education resources for the right fit for you. And some of them are small investments, some are much larger.
But if you feel like the opportunity cost of not asking, of being frustrated, of not getting things together for yourself, is one that is too high and you want to just fundamentally change things, that's what I'm here for.
And I only teach what I currently do. And it's built off of my decade of experience of basically being on the extreme cutting edge of what's going on.
And I will say this: You don't have to listen to me. You're going to hear what I teach from other people.
It's just what I'm teaching, you're not going to hear from them for a year or two. I've seen that for half a dozen years now.
And that's a cocky thing to say but I'll back it up. I'm starting to see folks talking about "We're gonna run, we're gonna stop doing a test and a scale campaign. We are going to do this one campaign thing."
That's my case study from 2019.
I've got Ebooks on it, case studies on it, $200 million spent developing. I just see that stuff all the time.
And I'm really excited to see more people adopt broad, which I'm talking about since 2018.
Dynamic Creatives, 2019 case studies, 2020 best practices.
So my point to all of that is I'm just trying to be helpful to folks. My DMs are always open. If you wanna know more go to facebookdisrupter.com.
And I just want folks to know that you do deserve to be successful. And if you're not confident right now, maybe the reason that you're not successful, or the things aren't working isn't you and your tenacity.
And might be because the people that you're trusting to teach you how to get there aren't good enough. And what I found in my experience is you're only as good as the company you keep.
You can work. You can be the hardest working person in the room. But if you're working for somebody that doesn't care about you or is teaching the wrong things, you're never going to achieve your potential.
And I think you deserve better. So that's what I'm here for.
That and claim rock'n'roll.
Absolutely. Charley, you've shared so much wisdom on this podcast. We'll make sure to link to all the stuff that you've mentioned down below.
Everyone, go check them out, make sure to give them a follow on Twitter.
Charley, we'll definitely have you on again in the future [and]dive deeply into some of these Facebook specifics that you were talking about.
But again, I can't thank you enough for coming on today.
Charles Tichenor IV
Oh, thank you so much, man. Yeah. And I would love to. Believe me. I could talk about this until I'm blue in the face. I really appreciate it. When my buddies came over this weekend, it was like a trip that we'll get together.
We went to a Dodgers game. I had somebody 2 rows back, yell at me for about four innings to please shut up.
Because apparently I was teaching 20 people around me about direct-to-consumer. And like I just can't.
It's what I do so I would love to share with anybody at any time. Anything I can do to be of help.
And I appreciate you giving me this platform to share it and we'll just continue to be...
We're now tweets that have talked and seen each other. We're going to be in the same room sooner than the...
Internet strangers. Yeah, exactly. It's funny how the world works.
Charles Tichenor IV
Right! It's funny how that all happens. Especially now getting to see more and more people that I've only ever seen on the internet for years. It's fun to go on a brunch with them! It's a good thing!
Absolutely. Next time we'll... Now we'll be like, "Oh, you're taller than I thought."
Charles Tichenor IV
Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. I met some guy.
He was like, "You're gonna be really surprised when you find out. I'm like 6 '10."
We meet every Friday.
You can't really tell…
Charles Tichenor IV
Yeah. Yeah, you’ve reminded me. I thought he was 5’ 8.
You can't really tell with all the talking head internet stuff.
Charles Tichenor IV
Yeah, yeah, yeah. But yeah, by the way, for what it’s worth, Nick Shackelford is more ripped in person than he looks like on the internet.
I’ve made a mistake of saying yes to go and work out with him at 7:30. For those that don’t know, he used to be a professional athlete like LA Galaxy.
Doing Crossfit with him on the beach with a couple of professional athletes, it took me like a week to walk right again. But I feel like I hung [on]. I hung.
It wasn’t as good but…
Charles Tichenor IV
There’s some nice people out there. There’s some really, really nice people out there. And I suggest everybody make the point of trying to make a face-to-face conversation with as many of the people you see on the internet.
Words are only words. But when you actually talk to folks, you’re gonna find some really, really nice people.
You might disagree on everything but can be really good friends. And I’ve had more and more of that lately and I love it.
So Chase, I really appreciate it man. I know you gotta go. Just, again, thank you so much and I’ll see you on the internet, dude.
Absolutely. We’ll be back DMs, dude. Take care so much.
Charles Tichenor IV
See you, buddy.
Alright. I can't thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing their knowledge and journey with us.
We've got a lot to think about and potentially add into our own business. You can find all the links in the show notes.
Make sure you head over to honestecommerce.co to check out all the other amazing content that we have.
Make sure you subscribe, leave a review. And obviously if you're thinking about growing your business, check out our agency at electriceye.io. Until next time.