Interview with Connor McSwain of PromoteKit

updated on 16 May 2024

Introduction

In today's interview we have a near and dear X friend, Connor McSwain. On our first video call I joked that Connor should be the rightful owner of IndieAffiliate and this project makes more sense in his hands. Why? Connor is the founder behind PromoteKit, Affiliate Software for Stripe. His product is impressive and even more so when you realize he is running everything solo. I personally enjoy his approach to building and am rooting for him to succeed. Enjoy.

The man himself, Connor McSwain
The man himself, Connor McSwain

Connor's Top 10:

Favorite Business Book: The Creative Act by Rick Rubin (Not exactly business but applicable to business)

A CEO you are studying: Tyler Denk

Favorite video game as a child: Star Wars Battlefront

Favorite sports team: Philadelphia 76ers

Favorite movie: The Prestige

PC or Mac: macOS

Favorite color: Blue

Favorite food: Tacos

Favorite holiday: Trip to Hawaii

LinkedIn or X: X!

Links 🔗

X handle: @cpmcswain98

PromoteKit: Website

Interview

Will: What are your goals with PromoteKit?

Connor: I want to build an affiliate software that’s most aligned with the interests of the users. For example, some affiliate softwares charge up front just to try out affiliate marketing. When a company first starts affiliate marketing, it might take some time to see results. So I think it’s nice to have an option where you can get started for free, and decide whether you want to invest more into affiliate marketing once you’ve seen some results.. I also just want to create a product that I would use myself. I like lightweight products that are easy to setup, so I’m trying to keep PromoteKit that way!

Will: What has worked for you this far?

Connor: Having many calls with users and iterating based on feedback. Especially early on, being super responsive to customer feedback and iterating fast has helped a lot.

PromoteKit Landing Page. Check it out for yourself here
PromoteKit Landing Page. Check it out for yourself here

Will: What are some commonalities among successful affiliate programs?

Connor: A lot of successful programs focus on quality over quantity. They might only have a handful of affiliates, but they are all high quality affiliates with a big audience. You can’t just leave the link to your affiliate program in your website footer. You need to actively reach out to affiliates in your niche. Some ideal places to find affiliates with an audience are YouTube, podcasts, and newsletters.

Will: Do you have an affiliate program?

Yes we have one listed on our homepage (we use PromoteKit of course 😂) - https://affiliates.promotekit.com

Will: What traits do you see in successful affiliates? Any specific insights you can share from building affiliate marketing software?

Connor: Successful affiliates typically already have some audience or traffic source relevant to the product they’re promoting. Also, it helps when an affiliate makes a tutorial or guide based on the product they’re promoting. Anything you can do to add value generally helps, rather than just spamming your affiliate link everywhere haha.

Will: Signed up. Great design, ux. Feels like there is an entire pro team behind it. How long have you been coding for and where do you get your design inspiration?

Thanks! I’ve been coding since I was 13 (I’m 25 now). I’m not great at design, so I take advantage of amazing pre built components from shadcnui (https://ui.shadcn.com/). I like to keep my designs as simple as possible. Ideally the product is designed so that everything is self-explanatory, and the user doesn’t have to read any documentation.

Will: What upcoming trends do you foresee occurring in SaaS in the next 5 years. Any hot takes?

Connor: I think we’ll see smaller teams (or one man teams) taking on more ambitious projects. I also think we’ll see a shift in marketing techniques from paid to organic now that it’s harder to be profitable with paid ads.

Will: How much of a desire have you had to either A) Launch an AI product or B) incorporate AI into PromoteKit?

Connor: Right now, I don’t see where AI could add value in PromoteKit, but I’m sure I will come across a use case in the future. I’m definitely interested in adding AI when it makes sense.

I considered working on an AI product before PromoteKit, but now I’m full time on PromoteKit so I don’t have time for it. Maybe one day!

Will: When you are not building products, marketing, or hanging out on Twitter, what are you up to?

Connor: If the waves are good I’m out surfing, otherwise I like to run, bike, and hit the gym.

 New Jersey winter surfing 🥶. AKA, shredding the gnar...
 New Jersey winter surfing 🥶. AKA, shredding the gnar...

Will: What’s the one biggest piece of advice you can give to anyone just starting out?

Connor: I would recommend picking an ambitious idea that you’re not 100% sure you can build, and just learn how to build it along the way. It takes a long time to build a company, so make sure you’re ok with working on your idea for years. I think the 12 startups in 12 months idea can lead to burnout, and it’s hard to make progress on many different things at once. It’s best to pick one idea with a decent chance of success and stick with it.

Will: What’s annoying you wish would go away?

Connor: People hating on Nextjs 😂

Will: Haha, what you mean, what do they say?

Connor: I’ve seen a lot of complaints about the app router and server components, but I’ve been using Nextjs for a while and have no complaints!

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