Rexanne Mancini: The Free Thinker

Mancini says she thought the Internet was the wave of the future and wanted a way to connect and be part of it. She waited to get on the Internet until after her younger daughter’s third birthday because she had the feeling that once she got on it she would never get off. And she was right.

Although she knew she wanted to sell something online, she had no idea what. She says she just had a feeling that “the Internet was going to be the place to be.”

In the beginning, Mancini wanted to reach out to other parents about her unique parenting philosophy, so she covered topics ranging from spanking to setting limits for children to self-esteem issues. As she built a community with returning visitors, her site gained traffic and she won several awards, including AOL’s Page of the Week.

Early on, she included a link to Amazon as part of their early affiliate program, Amazon Associates, which is how she discovered affiliate marketing. Her first sale was an Amazon book that she recommended, called Parents Please Don’t Sit on Your Kids. Although Amazon helped her figure out the business model of affiliate marketing, her beginning days were filled with trial and error.

She was aware of the wants and needs of parents because she was a stay-at-home mom. Mancini wrote about issues that came up in her day-to-day life and then researched retailers that sold merchandise appropriate to the topic. She tried merchants she thought would make sense for a family-oriented site like hers, such as Disney and Hallmark, but found those did not convert.

“I learned about affiliate marketing by the seat of my pants at first,” Mancini says. She didn’t start to make “real” money until she found and joined the online marketing forum ABestWeb.com. By participating in the various discussions on the forum and reading advice from others, she learned why she wasn’t making money and how “to turn traffic into gold.” In 1998, she built out her website into sections to offer holiday items for Halloween and Christmas.

But then in 2000, Mancini decided to take a full-time job and began working for an online traffic school. After a few months, another Internet company doing online video made her a much better offer. Even though she was managing everything from shipping to customer service, the company allowed her to work from home. That freedom gave her time to build out her own site.

Mancini says that both companies were very successful online, and having the firsthand opportunity to “see the power of Internet marketing from different angles was very exciting.”

Still, Mancini realized if she devoted the huge amount of energy she was putting into the online video company into her own effort, she could really be successful. That’s when she quit her job and jumped into affiliate marketing full time. Leaving her day job wasn’t her goal at the time, but when she began to make more money with affiliate marketing, she knew she had to concentrate on her own business.

Around that time, she decided to get her own domain in order to start a newsletter. Because Mancini had a somewhat unusual first name, she thought that might work well for building a brand. Even though the domain name had nothing in it to indicate that it was a family site, Mancini went with her instincts and bought www.Rexanne.com.

According to Mancini, the newsletter turned out to be an instrumental way for her to build community and keep people coming back. Currently, her site continues to get a surge in traffic when she sends out a newsletter. She says it is a great way to keep her in front of her visitors. One successful tactic she uses is to introduce a theme in the newsletter and then carry that same topic over to the forums on her website for people to debate.

Against the Grain

Not one to shy away from controversy, Mancini writes about topics not typically in line with mainstream thinking, and she’s not afraid to take a strong position on issues. She often ends up being “quite controversial without trying to be.”

When she writes about topics like immunizations, fluoride in toothpaste and talking to your kids about sex, debates among her audience ensue. For example, she was surprised to find out that 64 percent of her audience believes in spanking, because to her it seems so archaic. “It was shocking to be in the minority.”

Mancini also found out that her beliefs about childhood vaccinations and inoculations are the minority. Her father was a holistic doctor who started a movement against the polio vaccine and was instrumental in making sure that parents know their rights regarding mandatory inoculations in schools. She believes that vaccines can damage kids’ immune systems and thinks it’s crazy for infants to be exposed to an onslaught of disease. She feels the same about circumcision – infants should not be exposed to that type of pain when they don’t understand it.

Many of her ideas for what to write about stem from what to her seems like common sense. Mancini says she didn’t know anything about children before having her own – except that she had absolute beliefs about parenting and raising a sane, healthy child. “I found myself wanting to be the type of mother I wish I had had and wanting to protect my kids from a lot of mainstream beliefs and parenting advice that I felt was wrong and dangerous.” Her strongest belief is that children need to be loved and cherished and filled with positive self-images.

La Dolce Vita

Mancini’s own childhood was unique. She was born and raised in Los Angeles and lived there until she was 10 years old when her family moved to Rome, Italy. Mancini stayed in Rome for more than a decade before she returned home to the States at 21. She likes to embrace the spirit of the Roman culture – she loves life and thinks it should be enjoyed. One of Mancini’s mottos is that life is supposed to be fun and she doesn’t like to do something unless it is fun.

Her positive outlook and sunny disposition transcends to all aspects of her life. She lives with her two daughters, Justice, 19 years old, and Liberty, 13; Frankie the dog; and her cats, Holiday and Sage, in Studio City in the San Fernando Valley. She loves living in Los Angeles because of the weather, people and the opportunities that it offers.

Although Mancini loves her affiliate marketing job, she also has a passion for music, and sometimes freelances as a music supervisor for films and television. She’s careful only to take on music jobs that allow her to do some of the work at home so that she can keep up with her sites. It’s the creative process behind fitting the perfect music with a film that she loves and she says her specialty is finding unpublished songs and building a soundtrack of great unknown music. Before she started doing music supervision, she ran a music publishing and production company where she discovered new artists and songs for current recording artists.

In addition, she’s had a small acting role in the 2004 film, “Yard Sale.”

Her love of creativity and freedom makes her well-suited for affiliate marketing. She has also made lots of friends and enjoys the camaraderie of the affiliate marketing community. She’s a vocal and active poster on ABestWeb.com and enjoys friendships with many others involved in the forum. She counts many ABWers as close friends and some she considers her family. She’s also forged relationships through conferences and events like the Affiliate Summit and ShareASale’s annual Think Tank gathering of affiliates and merchants, which she “wouldn’t think about missing.”

Mancini is a big fan of ShareASale because she finds the network to be “honest and honorable.” It doesn’t hurt that ShareASale’s merchants also convert well on her site. She really noticed the difference in her traffic when she switched to ShareASale. Mancini doesn’t work much with LinkShare anymore because she claims she did not have much success with the merchants converting for her. AvantLink is her No. 2 choice in networks.

Secret to Her Success

For Mancini, one of the most important traits needed by an affiliate marketer is the ability to write well. Whether it is ad copy or telling a story – she says marketers need to be able to relay information effectively. She’s been successful at starting and growing a parenting site, even though there is so much competition online, because she has a unique voice. That has earned her a loyal audience that continues to come to her site for advice on issues like baby showers, teacher appreciation, how to care for infants, and birthdays. She matches these pages with affiliate links.

She says the products that sell the best for her today are Halloween costumes and holiday items for Christmas. Although she knows that apparel is a big online seller, she has not yet found a niche that works well for her, and she also has not had much success with learning products. Among her best sellers are Barbies, because they never seem to go out of style and girls love them – and grandparents and parents love to buy them.

Rexanne.com has more than 500 pages, and 10,000 visitors per day. The site gets up to 50,000 page views per day during the height of major holidays. Mancini allows advertising on most pages in the form of text links or buttons and banners. Because she has years of experience with affiliate programs, she understands what works and sells on her site and how and when to best reach visitors, and enjoys working with advertisers to help them achieve success on her site.

Because she loves to help people and finds it very satisfying, her site features parenting articles on topics like school overplacement, sex offender laws, and routines and schedules for children. Two years ago, she added forums to her site and found that they are a great way to build community. Topics include family photo albums, humor, prayer requests, and parenting issues like pregnancy and adolescence.

One area of her website she is building out is devoted to raising young ladies, and it focuses on topics such as how to be articulate, and improve appearance, confidence and grooming. However, Mancini points out that she doesn’t recommend any products or services she doesn’t believe in. For example, she will not promote an acne product if she doesn’t think it works.

Her honesty and straightforward attitude is another reason her site is successful, she believes. It’s a comfortable place for parents because she is a real person and not a corporation that is pushing products or an agenda on them.

Despite her Roman upbringing, Mancini is a Buddhist. The Buddhist philosophy plays a big role in her outlook on raising a child with kindness and compassion. Her signature line in forum postings is “loving everyone’s child creates magic.” She is truly caring about the world’s children and believes that adults should be open and honest with them. She sends her kids to private Catholic high school because it is a blue-ribbon school close to where she lives, but talks with them after school regarding what they learn philosophically to make sure it is in step with her beliefs.

In the future, Mancini plans to follow her heart into one of her other passions – and start a separate food and cooking site. She already has a separate section of her site devoted to recipes and gourmet cooking as well as a forum devoted to topics where users can exchange recipes. Enjoying food as well as family is definitely in step with her life philosophy.