Let fans support you. I’m constantly amazed at how surprised many influencers are when their fans thank them for selling interactions. Some influencers think they have to interact with all their fans for free — they feel uncomfortable charging. This isn’t actually how fans think. We’ve consistently found that fans: 1) want to support the creators they’re a fan of but don’t really have great ways to do it, and 2) understand that influencers are busy, and that paying is “necessary friction” — without it, the influencer would be overwhelmed by all the requests they get for their time.
As part of my series about “How Influencers Can Monetize Their Brand” I had the pleasure of interviewing Peter Karpas.
Peter Karpas is the founder of and CEO at Starsona, the platform that enables anyone who has fans or followers to have their own storefront for providing personalized experiences, content, and goods to individual fans. Previously he spent more than ten years in various roles at Intuit including CMO, CPMO, and GM of Quicken Business and of QuickBooks Verticals. At Paypal, he was GM of North America SMB and ran North American marketing. At other companies including First Data and Xero, Peter served small and medium companies. He currently sits on the Computer History Museum’s Executive Committee.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is your “backstory”? What brought you to this point in your career?
Starsona connects two of my worlds.
I love supporting small businesses and small business owners. Growing up, my dad was a serial entrepreneur. My mom is a bookkeeper for small businesses. I spent much of my career helping SMBs survive and thrive while at Intuit (makers of QuickBooks and Quicken), PayPal, Xero, and First Data.
I am also unabashedly a fan, and have always loved connecting with the people who make the things I enjoy. I go to author talks, comic book conventions, etc.
I helped co-found Starsona because I understood that many people with fame are actually SMBs, and fans want to connect. I wanted something like Starsona to exist!
Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you in the course of your career?
I’m not a great comedy writer, so how about one of the scariest?
One of the great inflection points of my career was when I was offered the Quicken GM job. It was my first true GM job where I managed every function. When they told me I was getting the job, what they didn’t tell me was that they were also re-organizing the company and that my new role was going to report to the CEO. So all of a sudden I was reporting to my boss’ boss’ boss (you read that right). For anyone reading this who’s in a large company, think of how you’d feel if you were suddenly working for your boss’ boss’ boss. Heck yeah I was scared by that.
The first time I walked into the CEO’s staff meeting, I was unbelievably nervous; I kept looking for the kids’ table. 🙂
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’d actually say it’s the other way around — trying to bring goodness to the world is what’s driven many of the successes I’ve had.
For example, I’ve worked really hard to create organizations where people have awesome, fulfilling jobs — because I have a visceral, emotional understanding of how awful it is when you don’t have a great job. If you give people great jobs where they’re challenged, learning, contributing, and winning, you’ve brought a lot of goodness into the world. Oh — and it also helps make the company successful!
None of us can achieve success without a bit of help along the way. Is there a particular person who made a profound difference in your life to whom you are grateful? Can you share a story?
My definition of a stretch job is “can succeed with help” — because if you don’t need help there’s no stretch, and if you can’t succeed it’s not a good job! So given I’ve tried to have every job be a stretch job, the real question has always been “where am I going to get the help from?” I’ve made sure I had an answer to that question before I took most of the jobs I’ve had in my life.
For this reason I’ve had so many awesome people help me, teach me, coach me, challenge me, invest in me, and believe in me that picking one would be unfair.
For instance, I mentioned earlier the Quicken GM job. Four amazing people — Steve Bennett, Scott Cook, Lorrie Norrington, and Dan Levin — all had to bet on me for me to get that job. And all had to help for me to be successful. It wasn’t just a single person, and I’m grateful to all of them.
So what are the most exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
Starsona! It’s unbelievably exciting to be witnessing the creation of an entirely new product category: personalized interactions and direct connections with fans.
Only in the last few years have people with fame had the ability to directly monetize fans; before that they made money either from the thing they did (make music, make YouTube videos, etc.) or from sponsorships. Now they can support what they do by interacting directly with fans through platforms like Starsona, Patreon, and Kickstarter. This is a massive change, and allows them to make a better living.
For fans, it’s the first time they can connect with the people they admire without having to run into them in the street or go to a convention or something like that. It democratizes access. And makes lots of people really happy.
What are your “Top Five Ways That Influencers Can Monetize Their Brand” . (Please share a story or example for each.)
1) Let fans support you.
I’m constantly amazed at how surprised many influencers are when their fans thank them for selling interactions. Some influencers think they have to interact with all their fans for free — they feel uncomfortable charging. This isn’t actually how fans think. We’ve consistently found that fans: 1) want to support the creators they’re a fan of but don’t really have great ways to do it, and 2) understand that influencers are busy, and that paying is “necessary friction” — without it, the influencer would be overwhelmed by all the requests they get for their time.
2) Offer fans multiple options to interact with you.
You don’t just want to offer video shout-outs, or live calls, or just a subscription, or any single option. Different fans have different needs, wants, and ability to pay. So offering a paid DM for $4 is different than offering to create a playlist for them for $30, which is different than offering a $10/month subscription.
3) Offer fans cool stuff.
I love the creativity our creators show in offering things that support their brand. Matthew Dellavedova’s in-joke with his fans is avocado toast, so he offers the ability for them to send him a photo or video of their avocado toast and he’ll send back a critique. We have artists who offer “positive messages” coloring book pages, funny “I’ll record your voicemail message” offerings, the ability to cook a meal with them, etc.
4) Know who your most financially supportive fans are.
Work with companies who will tell you who’s buying your interactions (we do that, as do complementary companies like Patreon & Kickstarter). This way you can build your marketing list and let your best fans know when you’ve dropped your latest video, have a new book coming out, or have offered a new interaction in your Starsona storefront. Fans > followers, and knowing who your fans are, not just handles or mass numbers, is crucial to monetizing your brand.
5) Be comfortable promoting yourself in addition to promoting your work.
Some influencers we work with are more comfortable pushing their work — they focus on keywords, algorithms, etc. The most successful ones, though, understand that many fans want to know about them as people. Promoting both yourself and your work is important.
If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.
There are lots of things, obviously, but given this particular interview topic I’d say “helping the small and medium businesses of this world.” So many people tend to focus on helping the people at the top of the pyramid — the stars & the star machine. I think it’s great when businesses focus on all the people in the middle of the pyramid who work hard to do what they love, and bring joy to others while doing it.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this. 🙂
There’s tons of people I’d love to meet; the world is filled with fascinating people doing great things. How about the heads of agencies and management companies like CAA and Red Light Management? I’d want to understand how they think about this new category of personalized interactions and direct connections — it’s a different way for their clients to make money than they’re used to.
From a more fun and personal perspective, how about Brian Michael Bendis? I’ve been a fan of his since he was writing independent black & white comics and I’d be fascinated to learn from him about his creative process.
What is the best way our readers can follow your work online?
Join us at https://starsona.com/