Meet John Lee: Clix Marketing Managing Partner

Today’s post is the last in a series where we’ve been profiling each member of our leadership team here at Clix. We hope you’ve enjoyed getting to know us!

jlI first met John Lee at a conference in 2013; I sat next to him in a breakout session, and if you had asked me then or now for one word to describe him it would be ‘nice.’ If you’ve been in the PPC industry for any amount of time, chances are you’ve seen John’s name around. With 10 years of digital marketing experience under his belt, he has run the conference gamut, speaking at events like SMX East and West, SES Chicago and HeroConf, and his writing has been featured on a number of blogs including Search Engine Watch and the Wordstream Blog. Despite his notoriety, John has remained a nice and relatable industry professional, and he feels these characteristics combined with his competitive nature and curiosity are some of the traits that have helped him with his career success.

“I’m competitive and ambitious, but not at the sacrifice of basic manners. I learned as a small child that the simple act of treating everyone with respect and listening to others can get you pretty far in life.”

And he’s in good company. One of his favorite things about working in the digital marketing industry is the camaraderie and communication among his peers around the world.

When John isn’t rocking PPC accounts you’ll likely find him ‘as a blur of metal and awesomness’ on his motorcycle, spending Q-time with his wife and kids or jamming with his band on a mean keyboard, guitar, harmonica or tambourine. Read on to learn more about his career path, his family, and the digital marketer he most admires.

What did you want to be when you were a kid and why?

At various times in my childhood, what I wanted to be when I grew up changed based on my understanding of the world. My mother was GREAT at reminding me that I could be whatever I wanted to be (thanks, mom!). However, the 3 that actually stuck around and stand out are 1) architect – I spent hours drawing blueprints as a kid 2) musician – while I’m no pro, this one at least partially came true 3) music teacher – this is how I began my college years.

What college did you attend? Major?

Ball State University in Muncie, IN. As I determined that music education was going to be my major, Ball State made tremendous sense in Indiana given that it has deep roots in educating teachers and has a great school of music.

What’s one thing about you that few people know?

I’m the youngest of 14 kids. Crazy, right? I only have 1 sibling where we share the same parent set. The rest are half-siblings. But still pretty damn crazy. My dad lived a, shall we say, interesting life.

How did you get started in digital marketing?

I had the good fortune of working under Joe Kerschbaum at a book publishing company in Bloomington, IN called Authorhouse. He left to work for Pat East at Hanapin Marketing. A few months later, I saw them post a job listing. While I was a denizen of the internet and understood how search engines worked, I knew nothing about PPC. I didn’t now Pat, but I knew (and loved) Joe – so I took a chance and applied for the job. I read as much as I could before the interview and I guess I was able to answer Pat and Joe’s questions with some semblance of clarity since they took the chance and hired me! They learnt me real good on the PPC’s – and the rest is history.

Describe your jobs/roles at the companies you’ve worked for.

Where to start?!?!?

    • Manager of a movie theater: hire/fire/manage employees, manage inventory (film, perishable/non-perishable food), facilities management & more.
    • Authorhouse: media outlet research for press release distribution, press release distribution via fax (yeah…) and email, installing email marketing software for press release distribution (from idea to execution!), copyright application & filing en masse, coordination of marketing materials and project managing design team.
    • Hanapin Marketing / Wordstream / Clix Marketing: ALL THE THINGS. All things PPC/display/social advertising, client services, HR, business development / sales, software research & vetting, writer, speaker, IT guy (yeah… that, too), design, coding, etc..

What events lead up to you starting your own business?

Truth be told, Mae and I didn’t start Clix Marketing. We were originally employees of Clix. In 2011, we had the opportunity to buy Clix from David Szetela. I often say (tongue in cheek) that Mae and I are ‘accidental entrepreneurs’.

What conferences have you spoken at and what were your presentation topics?

SMX West, SMX East, SocialPro, HeroConf, HeroConf London, SES Chicago, ClickZ Live NY, Acquisio User Summit, Zenith Conference, MN Search Summit, Ticket Summit, Bing Ads Connect.

Favorite topics :

    • Bing Ads Shopping Campaigns at HeroConf Philly.
    • Leverage data/reports for actionable insights in Facebook Ads at SocialPro.
    • Twitter Ads is like the Game of Thrones at HeroConf London.
    • Display advertising  is bringing sexy back at HeroConf Austin.
    • New client onboarding best practices at SMX West.

What is your favorite conference presentation of someone else’s and why?

As a blanket response, I’m a big fan of seeing smart, polished presenters like John Gagnon, Bryan Eisenberg, Rand Fishkin, Purna Virji or Brad Geddes on stage. When they are doing their thing, I’m typically writing as many notes about stage presence and delivery as I am the content of their presentation.

One of the better sessions I’ve been in lately was at HeroConf Philadelphia. Scott Brinker did a keynote and his focus was (surprise!) on marketing technology. This played right into my nerdy side and looking at the world of marketing/advertising in a big-picture view. What stood out for me was how the world of marketing is slowly learning from the world of software development as the lines between the two worlds are blurring. Marketing teams can improve by adapting the agile development model (or some other bad-ass hybrids Scott referenced).

What advice do you have for people just starting out in digital marketing?

As in life, knowledge is power. Keep yourself educated on the marketing and advertising industry as a whole – even if your job has a limited scope. My opinion is that the more you know about how all of the various channels, strategies, etc. work, the better decisions you will make for your company or clients.

If you could go back in time to when you first started working in digital marketing and give yourself one piece of advice what would it be?

Hone your writing chops and learn how to code – asap.

What digital marketer do you most admire and why?

Brad Geddes. He is so damn smart. I can’t think of a conversation I’ve had with him where I didn’t learn something. Further, he is so damn nice, too! He has graciously answered questions from me over the years. His affinity for technology far exceeds my own – but we get equally excited about things like Motorola and tiny laptops with massive power. ; )

What is your greatest career accomplishment to date?

There are many things that I consider accomplishments – big and small. But perhaps one that was both life affirming and truly flattering? Being asked/invited to speak at a conference. I mean… damn! Maybe I know what I’m talking about after all!!!

What is your greatest non-career related accomplishment to date?

15 years of marriage to my (significantly) better half Rebecca. Followed closely by my children – Abigail and Miles.

What is your favorite thing about your job?

I love diving in head first and trying to learn/break/understand new features, tools and strategies.

If your closest friends were to describe you in one word what would it be?

It is a near certainty that the description would include inappropriate language. The distillation would be along the lines of goofy, or whacky or “really?!?!?”

What’s your favorite place you’ve traveled to? Where would you still like to go?

London (and a side-trip to Stonehenge) definitely tops the list of favorite places I’ve traveled to – but my time was limited and didn’t get to do as much sightseeing as I’d hoped. Still on the list? Iceland, mainland Europe, Australia and even China.

What’s one thing on your bucket list that you’ve completed and one thing you have yet to complete?

Learning how to ride motorcycles and then owning one of my own was on my bucket list from the time I was a kid. Got to take that one off the list on my 29th birthday. My bucket list is long and varied, but one that I think I’m in striking distance of is visiting all 50 states in the U.S. I’m at 40 states and counting…


That’s a wrap! We hope you enjoyed getting to know John a little better. He’s a great asset to our Clix team and we’re proud to call him one of our own. If you missed the previous profiles you can read more about Michelle here and more about Mae here.