Mark Pearson has already founded three businesses and he’s only 29 years old. Little wonder that he attracts a lot of attention in his industry. His London-based firm is by far the biggest player in the sector, despite being one of the newest. MyVoucherCodes saw sales of £9m last year with £5.3m profit and is set to announce a 2009 turnover of £15m.
But Pearson is not popular with his peers. The affiliate marketing forums are brimming with scathing remarks and accusations. “He stole our newsletter format,” writes one anonymous poster. “Pearson sends abusive emails,” says another. “When will the networks sit up and take notice?” is the title of a whole thread, featuring 162 comments. But what is the truth?
“The truth is that you’ve never seen a consumer complain about us,” says the MyVoucherCodes boss. “You’ve never seen anything like that. We’ve achieved so much and we have worked hard and we have been aggressive. But we haven’t done anything wrong. There’s always going to be competition in this industry. But that’s what you’ve got to do – it’s business. Take Tesco, for example. They will take as much market share as they want, but as long as it’s done cleanly and ethically, there’s nothing wrong with it.”
But surely there’s no smoke without a fire? What about the reported fall out with Play.com?
“People always use Play.com as an example of a retailer that we’ve somehow fallen out with,” says Pearson. “But we work with Play.com. They pay us commission. There was a was a fall-out temporarily, but I think it was a personal issue by the person who posted from an agency. There’s a big story behind that, but we don’t need to go into that really. But it’s nothing terrible, I think it’s just a misunderstanding.”
So, why all the bad blood? And why only you?
“Partially it could be jealously,” says the MyVoucherCodes founder. “I’m not going to say they’re jealous, because I don’t want to say that. The fact is that I’m the new kid on the block. I think the big thing we found, the big negativity is, that we’ve achieved so much in a small space of time, whereas a lot of people have been in the industry for ten years or more.”
Have these negative discussions in forums affected business at all?
“It’s hard for me when I’m sitting at a table with a big corporation and they say, we want to do a deal, but…” admits Pearson. “But then I’ve got to prove them wrong. I just say, would all the retailers still be working with me if this were all true? No. Would the networks still be working with me? Would the advertisers want to work with me if I was doing all these terrible things? It wouldn’t happen. The fact is, these things are all on an industry website, a forum for affilaite marketers. My competition.”
So how do you react to the accusations? Are you “turning the other cheek” or are you eager to clear your name?
“If it was anywhere other than the internet, I’d start worrying,” says Pearson. “If I’ve got problems anywhere else, then I address them. I’d go, actually, is it true? No, I don’t think it is. But I don’t even know who these people are, I’ve never met them. If any of these people came to me face-to-face and told me their compalins, that would be one thing. None of them ever contact me!
“I’ve even got my mobile number on my website!” continues the MyVoucherCodes MD. “I get some weird calls sometimes but that’s it. If there’s a real issue, why don’t they come to me direct?”
Pearson looks tired at the end of the interview, but RB has to ask: Why don’t you fight back?
He explains: “I’m not vocal; I spend all my time on the business. I don’t want to fight fight with fire. My PR company came and said, “Let’s put the truth out” but the thing is, what will it do? It will egg it on, make it worse. Better to leave it. People who know you and believe in you and know what you do know the truth anyway. But unfortunately it’s up there on the web and it will be there forever. And there’s nothing we’ve ever done wrong.”
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