CCBill’s charismatic Gary Jackson is back in the office after another round of industry shows in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
You can count on Jackson, CCBill’s managing vice president of sales, to be at all of the shows worldwide, representing one of the most well-known and oldest Internet billing services.
Growing the gay market and developing the gay portion of The Phoenix Forum made it very fun to come to work. -Gary Jackson, CCBill
But today, it’s back to the office for Jackson and the daily biz at CCBill, where the Tempe, Ariz., processor accomodates tens of thousands of merchants and affiliates.
“Our day is rather busy as you can imagine,” Jackson says.
But Jackson finds time to speak to XBIZ about jumping into the biz and the company he’s been focused on for well over a decade.
XBIZ: How did you venture into the adult industry?
GARY JACKSON: After retiring from a professional mainstream acting career spanning from Seattle to New York and culminating in Los Angeles, a friend of mine backhandedly persuaded me to “get a real job” and I was offered an opportunity to get involved in online media and digital delivery in the mid-1990s. I had actually been a fairly successful actor in musical and dramatic theater, but acting is a rather unstable and tough career – so being a closet geek – I jumped at the chance the get involved in the digital side of the industry and moved to Phoenix. Since that time, my business background has been in getting startups off-the-ground and constructing solid sales organizations from scratch for these fledgling online businesses. The fun part of the startup world was watching the successes excel into growth, acquisitions and mergers and then moving on to the next challenge with a pocketful of stock options!
My previous company, Limelight Networks, worked very closely with CCBill on content delivery, in fact we were local neighbors down the road in Tempe, and an opportunity opened up to get involved in sales of the new CCBill DRM product, so I jumped at the chance to work with the Cadwells and the CCBill family. After DRM adoption hit a few speed bumps, I saw that the gay adult market was prime for a new focus, so I jumped at that opportunity to be the de facto gay market guy in CCBill. Growing the gay market and developing the gay portion of The Phoenix Forum made it very fun to come to work, and in the past years working closely with my gay counterparts in the market, I think that CCBill has built up a solid loyalty from the gay consumer in the market. In early 2010, I assumed the role of managing vice president of Internet markets for CCBill.
The industry is not what I had expected when I started, though. It has turned out to be like working with family – with people whom I truly respect – but I also just simply like the people in our industry. I am honored to now call so many of them my friends.
XBIZ: What’s a typical work day like?
JACKSON: Most people describe my day as schizophrenic at best. I get accused of eating, sleeping, playing, and hallucinating CCBill. So when I get up, I try to keep some personal balance and make myself take some time to read local news, get my political fix on MSNBC, feed our happy pug, and spend some nonwork time with my partner – then head to the madness of the office.
Since CCBill has tens of thousands of merchants and affiliates, as well as millions of consumers – our day is rather busy as you can imagine. The sales team at CCBill has four groups within the CCBill and Cavecreek sales teams alone – sales executives who work with new sales and many of our key accounts, sales associates who handle the hundreds of new inquires and accounts that come in, account managers, plus Cavecreek sales executives.
I take the stance and policy that every touch point for a merchant or affiliate makes that employee, person or team responsible for that merchant’s experience. I call it our client team – and it included sales, support, marketing, implementations – even development – and they all carry a level of accountability for the user experience. This has been tremendous for driving communication between groups since our common focus ends up rallying around our users.
Our sales team includes industry vets and new comers alike, so I am lucky to have a broad perspective to work with. I try to include my sales teams in any business discussions, new feature development, and even new product designs, since they are the ones who actually deal with our merchants and affiliates on a regular basis. The sales team includes Jeff Neis, Sean Eggert, Paul Kluzak, Mili Torres, and Renee Fuentes – who are all smart, passionate business experts with a keen insight into high-risk processing. With their background and connections into our industry, they all teach me a thing or two every day and manage their merchant relationships as members of their families. Jorge Espinoza and Colin Powell, provide some of the best detail and feedback on our services when a new business is trying to maneuver the complex world of high-risk processing. Our support side is headed by two detailed and wonderfully obsessive-compulsive experts in the CCBill backend: James Anderson drives extraordinary support standards each day, while Damon Baldi tirelessly tries to make our integration processes effective and easier. Our new brand manager, Jason Kirk, has 12 years of background experience in developing our stable and solid backend – and is taking us into 2020 with some pretty out-of-the-box ideas for our market.
XBIZ: What defines CCBill and make it stand out from the rest?
JACKSON: Working at CCBill is unlike any other company in the various industries in which I have worked. But I don’t think it is a specific service or product or tool that we offer that defines CCBill.
My personal belief is that the uniqueness of CCBill is much less tangible than simply the e-commerce platform we offer. If I were to say one thing that drives much of who we are and how we operate is our fierce commitment to the three respective users of CCBill – the merchants, their affiliates and the CCBill consumers who make the purchases.
I know all too well that we are not always perfect in everything we do – but what keeps me connected to this CCBill clan, and what I think keeps our users connected, is that we make the best effort to do what is right for our users. Our industry can sometimes be hard on its partners, and we get our share of fair and unfair criticism, but I have always been inspired by CCBill’s driving principle of doing what is right first. Our primary question internally that we ask is, “how will this affect those who depend on us?” I know it sounds cheesy, but I’m a little old-fashioned and I could not be a part of a company with squishy integrity – I value integrity above everything.
What most people don’t know is that the average CCBill employee has been with our company for at least seven years, which helps us to have a very connected and communal environment. A big reason for this level of tenure, is that the company has always preferred to nurture and grow employees within the organization, and tries to give opportunities to the CCBill family to expand on their skill sets and develop with the company. I have seen this cultivate a zealous level of commitment to the company as well as deep pride in what we offer and how we take care of business. This is a big motivator for the team within CCBill.
This also reveals itself in the duration of our merchants with CCBill – we have thousands of merchants who have been with us for up to 14 years and are still going strong – and I think a lot of that has to do with our vast respect for our effect on both the merchant and affiliates’ livelihood – and the family environment we believe in.
I value that commitment over any feature or tool that we can create.
XBIZ: How many transactions does CCBill facilitate each month?
JACKSON: Well, after 15 years processing, we process millions of transactions of all kinds each month, in 180 countries globally – and we have merchants in almost as many countries. Single purchases, subscriptions, trials, tangibles, invoicing, and even non-profit donations keep our platform, backend, fraud systems, and consumer support center very busy year round. What is surprising is how many of these transactions globally come from returning visitors as well. I’m not referring to rebills, but in the consumer market, we have been fortunate to develop a loyal following with consumers for different sites, which has shown to impact retention across the board for all CCBill merchants.
XBIZ: How important is it to customize programs for client needs? And can you give some real and interesting examples of such customization?
JACKSON: Good question for this economy. There are tried and true formulas for paysites, and using some of the standards can still be used successfully for niche content and specific audiences. But since the overall consumer audience has become much, much more savvy in its buying habits, so much more is expected from the online experience. Interestingly, most of CCBill’s platform was built and developed directly from the requests and needs of the adult market – and based on direct requests from our merchants and affiliates. That makes the menu customization tools in CCBill rather appetizing, but more importantly, very much intune with the reality of the adult online business. Most people are not aware that the CCBill platform actually has several hundred different features for commerce and flow – and that is our fault for not doing a better job of educating on these features.
So, from a business perspective, our system is actually built to support and ensure a seamless, unified experience for the member or buyer – while offering multiple services and options to buy. I think that customization is a combination of the process of buying combined with the value of the purchase. We see too many merchants trying to do just one aspect – but you have to sit in the chair of your user and ask the blunt question – is your site and content worth it. The many business tools such as one-clicks, upgrades, downgrades, open-ended access – combined with the custom checkout process are needed to drive the most sales and retention in an overly saturated online world.
XBIZ: What sector of the online adult business is driving the market these days?
JACKSON: During the recession, we saw a huge spike in cam sites and live interactive content. Since live content is always new and usually lower cost to produce, a lot of merchants started adding cams as a smart way to drive retention, and attract new sales. And it worked. But interestingly, it has expanded to what we call the Interaction market – cams, dating, hook-up, social networking – all have been storming the industry. The paysites and content producers which are leveraging these connections are keeping customers, attracting attention, and are the ones making more money.
But the winners are doing it wisely. I always stick by the adage – “Jack of all trades, master of none” – to reinforce that the merchants need to stick with their expertise and leverage partners for the parts that are new or unknown. Doesn’t mean you cannot learn to do new things, but we have seen a massive growth in the adoption of white-label solutions – and the revenue streams are keeping pace with the growth. Outsourcing in the adult markets used to be a bad word, but as consumers are buying differently, we have noticed a significant increase in the market leveraging outside resources – and staying focused on what they do well themselves.
XBIZ: Where is most of your business coming from, U.S. or Europe, or is it about the same?
JACKSON: CCBill’s merchant base is actually fairly evenly split between North America and the EU, but with the global changes in MasterCard, we are anticipating some migration back to the U.S./Canadian markets for accounts, since many merchants chose the EU to leverage the difference in regulations and compliance.
From a consumer standpoint, our buyers are split between 55 percent in North America, and 30 percent from Europe and 15 percent from other regions. And we are seeing a payments spurt in the numbers of transaction coming from devices as opposed to desktops. And while we saw some significant growth in EU in 2012, we anticipate more acceleration in EU and Eastern Europe, should the EU economy stabilize in late 2013 and 2014.
XBIZ: Are there any countries/regions that you don’t currently service but would like to in the near future?
JACKSON: As I mentioned, we already serve consumers in 180 countries globally, but in looking at the emerging markets of South America, China, South Korea and India, we do see opportunities in these regions. However, banking and government regulations for finance and content are a big challenge in these countries, so we have to consider the risk/reward in the markets for adult. We already have a chunk of business in most of these countries in our mainstream processing, but adult has been a trickier path to maneuver in these countries. Our plans for 2013 have already started with a significant investment in the core structure of CCBill for a longterm scalable solution.
XBIZ: How does CCBill, with an evolving slate of banking and privacy regulations, stay in compliance?
JACKSON: With fingerscrossed! Naw, just kidding. I would venture to say that while we are one of the most conservative providers in the market, we are always monitoring the market, looking ahead to try to anticipate change. You usually don’t see many surprise regulation changes coming down on our merchants, and I have to credit our VP of e-commerce, Jake Powers, for that. He has done a substantial job in keeping good relationships with the card associations, and leveraging our banking friends to help protect not only our merchants but I would also argue that his work has had a positive impact on the overall adult processing industry.
CCBill also has always maintained a rather large team to track compliance, risk management and banking health, that not only supports our merchants in staying compliant, but also tries to provide recourse and options for the merchants to keep their sites up and running.
So it really has been a partnerships between our internal leadership and the merchants who work with us to keep us all up, active and growing.
XBIZ: When not thinking about the biz, what do you like to do?
JACKSON: Well, outside of my obsession with the gym, I hinted at my musical theater background, which has made music, theater and art part of my life. I am involved locally in several choirs, as well as I sometimes sit in with a fantastic Latin band, and we blend the Latin beat with some standards for a cool treatment of some old crooner songs.
Plus my partner and I work with a number of GLBT groups in the Phoenix area – ranging from HIV/AIDS groups, to equal rights organizations as well as some inspiring organizations that are helping GLBT youth to find support and resources, when they have been shunned by their families and schools. These are wholehearted organizations that are changing the way gay kids view themselves in a country that is not always supportive, and often downright hateful of ‘different’.
As you can probably tell, I am a big believer in fairness is every aspect of my life – and I strive for that in work and play.