Legendary Outlook: Q & A with Todd Crawford

More than a year ago, Todd Crawford created quite a stir in the affiliate community when he departed Commission Junction, a company he helped found in 1998. He emerged at Digital River’s oneNetworkDirect as its vice president of sales and business development, where he oversees affiliate recruitment and development, has profit and loss responsibility, and develops the technology road map and overall strategic direction for the company.

Although Digital River is headquartered in Minnesota, Crawford lives and works just south of Santa Barbara in Ventura, California, where he can ride his motorcycles and drink the local wine in Southern California’s year-round sunshine.

During his tenure at CJ, he was the vice president of sales. His main responsibility was new advertiser acquisition, but he also handled other business initiatives including industry relations and CJ’s international expansion in Europe and Asia.

Revenue’s Senior Writer Alexandra Wharton asked Crawford about a variety of topics including why an affiliate program for the software industry makes sense, the constantly evolving affiliate industry and the making of industry legends.

Alexandra Wharton: oneNetworkDirect is part of Digital River. How do the two entities fit together?

Todd Crawford: oneNetworkDirect is Digital River’s online affiliate network – a network that specializes in providing Digital River software publishing clients with affiliate marketing services and technologies as well as access to a channel of more than 70,000 affiliates.

AW: What is the reason to start an affiliate network for only software products?

TC: Since 1994, Digital River has focused on e-commerce and the digital delivery of software products, so it was a logical progression to launch an affiliate network focusing on these types of products to help our clients drive more sales.

AW: Has this been a long-standing opportunity or is it the result of changes in the marketplace?

TC: With broadband penetration where it is today, more and more consumers are opting to download their software purchases, and I believe this trend is only going to continue to increase. Affiliates can benefit several ways from offering digital downloads: 1) When sold online, downloads have a lower cost of goods than physical products, which means there are more margins to pay affiliates higher commissions; 2) software is a natural fit for affiliates to promote since the computers consumers are using to shop online run on software; and 3) consumers can begin using the software as soon as the download is complete, so affiliates do not have to wait for physical products to ship before receiving their commissions.

AW: During the eight years that you’ve been in the industry, what are some of the most significant changes that happened in affiliate marketing?

TC: The first thing that comes to mind is how much the entire industry has matured. In 1998, affiliate marketing was a great idea but did not generate significant revenue because most companies did not take it seriously. From 1998 to 2002, it seemed like affiliate marketing was trying to earn its wings as a legitimate marketing channel. Fortunately, the dot-com bomb accelerated this shift as it forced companies to make smarter decisions on how to spend their marketing budgets and eventually moved affiliate marketing to the front of the line.

The next big change was the emergence of search arbitrage. I remember the day we were doing some networkwide analysis on recent unexplained growth trends and saw a lot of referring URLs coming from Google and Overture. We looked into it deeper and figured out what was going on. It seemed like such a simple idea that obviously was working very well. Today of course, search arbitrage is a huge part of affiliate marketing. I believe that the success and popularity of paid search today is due to the early innovators in affiliate marketing.

AW: Over the next year, what are some of the biggest challenges facing oneNetworkDirect?

TC: The greatest challenge is taking advantage of all the opportunities in front of us. We have been growing at a tremendous rate since we launched in November 2005. During the past six months, we have made great progress on the affiliate interface, reporting and tool set. Prior to Affiliate Summit in Las Vegas, we re-branded and launched a new home page at www.oneNetworkDirect. com. We have a road map of new features and functionality and have been doing regular releases. During the past year, we have created more affiliate mindshare, which is also attracting more attention and interest in oneNetworkDirect. Some of our affiliates have found great success as part of our network and we are hoping that their success stories will drive even more interest in the industry.

AW: How many merchants are in your network?

TC: Currently there are more than 50 programs in oneNetworkDirect, including programs from leading publishers of digital products and software applications. We typically add several new programs each month.

AW: How many affiliates are in your network?

TC: More than 70,000 affiliates have signed up to participate in oneNetworkDirect.

AW: Can you talk about how you will focus on recruiting and developing affiliate relationships?

TC: Affiliate recruitment and development is our primary focus at oneNetworkDirect. We have a dedicated affiliate development team. Half of the team is responsible for recruiting new affiliates, and the other half of the team is responsible for managing top-performing af- filiate relationships. I recognized years ago that world-class affiliate service is the key to growing a network. We are very active at trade shows where we attract new affiliates and further develop our relationships with existing affiliates. This year we will be exhibiting at the Af- filiate Summit conferences in Las Vegas, Miami and London; Ad:Tech in Paris, London, San Francisco, Chicago and New York; eComXpo; SES; and at Digital River-hosted client events around the world.

AW: Can you explain what oneNetworkDirect’s product, trialTracker, does?

TC: trialTracker is a new conversion-monitoring technology that allows affiliates to promote “try before you buy” versions of software titles by integrating the affiliate ID dynamically into the download. Because the affiliate ID is actually in the software trial, any subsequent upgrades to paid versions will be credited to the affiliate that initiated the trial download. It is a great product offering because many software titles offer free virus or security scans that require the consumer to pay for the product to resolve any identified issues. Affiliates can offer something valuable and free for their users to try out and benefit from the eventual paid upgrades. trialTracker is exclusive to oneNetworkDirect.

AW: What are some of the incentives oneNetworkDirect has in place to attract top affiliates?

TC: oneNetworkDirect has several incentives that are designed to both attract and retain affiliates. Like most affiliate networks, we encourage all of our merchants to offer coupons and promotions to affiliates, including exclusive coupons for select affiliates. These coupon links can be accessed when searching for creative by type through the af- filiate interface. We also list promotions and other program-specific opportunities on our blog, which can be accessed at our website. Affiliates also can find a list of current coupons from top programs on the oneNetworkDirect site. In addition, we offer networkwide promotions on a regular basis. Currently we are offering the oneNetworkDirect Rewards Program that pays up to an additional 2.5 percent when affiliates achieve certain goals or thresholds. For more details, affiliates should visit our site.

AW: Can you tell me about oneNetworkDirect’s Achievers’ program?

TC: The oneNetworkDirect Achievers Program is targeted to our topperforming and high-potential affiliates. Through the Achievers program, affiliates are offered dedicated account management resources to help them gain access to special creative, offers, promotions and custom landing pages as well as receive help obtaining approvals for certain promotional opportunities, such as email or paid search. The Achievers Program also provides affiliates with special perks and opportunities tailored for this exclusive group, including VIP passes to conferences, free software and dedicated marketing dollars for individual bonuses and promotions. Affiliates can learn more about how to become a member and benefit from all the perks of the oneNetworkDirect Achievers Program on our website.

AW: What are some of the long-term goals for the company?

TC: To further increase the value we provide our clients, two important areas of focus for Digital River will be the continued expansion of our global footprint and strategic marketing services. In the end, we are committed to driving pay-for-performance results for our clients.

AW: In three years, what will the performance marketing space look like?

TC: What makes affiliate marketing interesting is the constant innovation and change. Just like with paid search, affiliates are eager to explore and take advantage of new opportunities. Right now, Web 2.0 is the big trend. Three years from now it will be something else.

AW: At CJ you were sort of the face and voice of the company in the affiliate space. Do you feel you have the same level of influence over the community in your role at oneNetwork Direct?

TC: I continue to play a very active role in the industry. I have a network of people that I interact with on a regular basis and we all influence each other. At oneNetworkDirect, we have an active trade show schedule, we frequently participate on panels and speak at industry events, contribute to blogs like ReveNews and ABestWeb and regularly meet face-to-face with affiliates, technology providers and marketers in the affiliate community.

AW: At January’s Affiliate Summit, you won the 3rd Annual Wayne Porter Affiliate Marketing Legend award. Rumor has it that you won because you are always willing to share your knowledge. Why do you think that’s important in this industry?

TC: If you want a young industry to grow, you can’t keep a lot of secrets. I like to talk to people about things I feel passionate about – and affiliate marketing is something I feel very passionate about. I’ve found that some of the best ideas come from open dialogue and conversations with other people. It’s by working together that we can build and develop the best ideas and solutions.

AW: In your opinion who else is a legend in the affiliate space?

TC: That is a tough question because there are so many people who have contributed to this industry to get it where it is today. I know developers, program managers, affiliates and other network executives who have worked very hard while keeping their heads down and consequently have not been in the industry spotlight to get the recognition they deserve.

B. Knoblach: The Fast Talker

If you asked 100 people on ABestWeb what kind of experiences they have had interacting with B. Knoblach, they probably wouldn’t have a clue as to who you are talking about. But if you say the name Billy Kay, you’re likely to get a huge reaction.

Billy Kay is not just a screen name on ABestWeb; it’s the business identity of a man who has a huge personality and huge heart.

And yes, his first name is really just the letter “B” and no, it’s not short for something else. He claims that his dad was named Walter and didn’t want a junior so he named him B. Although it seems like there might have been other choices for his father, in the tale Knoblach tells that’s how it goes. Period.

One thing about Knoblach is that it’s hard to know just when he’s kidding or saying things for effect. Most of his talk seems designed to provoke and titillate. The way he says things is a huge part of who he is. He’s a fast-talking native New Yorker, who still has a noticeable accent despite having left his home state more than 30 years ago.

Back in the ’70s he made his way out west to California. He served in the Air Force straight out of high school and then used his GI benefits to attend college at CW Post. Armed with a degree in music and $10,000 worth of musical equipment (including keyboards, drums and guitars) to his name, he headed to Los Angeles with a big dream to make it as a professional musician.

But he claims that a shipping problem changed the course of his life. The instruments he shipped to LA arrived and were signed for, just not by him or at the correct address. Back then the tracking and authentication methods of package shippers weren’t as sophisticated as they are now. So after months of arguing with UPS about not receiving his instruments and also trying to file a police report (which was declined because the police said the goods weren’t stolen since someone signed for them) he called it a wash and started hunting for a job to pay the bills.

An ad in the paper looking for ex-New Yorkers who were musicians caught his attention. It was for a telemarketing job. He jokes that New Yorkers are ideally suited for telemarketing because they have the natural gift of gab. He has that in spades and thrived in the business. In fact, he did so well that he stayed there for eight years. He was a standout and not surprisingly was noticed by the owner of the company. His boss was apparently infamous for questionable money-making tactics. Billy Kay won’t reveal much more about those early days except to say that his tax forms listed his occupation as “publishing.”

But it was clear to him that something was missing. He had good money coming in and a serious girlfriend but he really wanted to be a parent. He thought about being a big brother but that wasn’t permanent enough. He jokes that he already had season passes to the zoo and lived near Magic Mountain, he just needed the kid. Someone suggested to him that he might want to think about being a foster parent.

So nearly 13 years ago Billy Kay took the steps to become a foster parent to a six-month-old boy named Jesse. He says it was the best thing he ever did. But being a parent meant undergoing some serious life changes.

In his personal life, Knoblach’s longtime girlfriend wasn’t willing to change her pampered lifestyle to accommodate a child, so they eventually split. “It changed our whole lives. Jesse wasn’t a puppy that could take care of himself. He needed someone who wanted to be there for him and share a life with him. She cared about getting her nails done and rubbing shoulders with stars.”

On the work side of things, Knoblach needed more “respectable” employment. He claims that he “knew what I was doing was wrong,” and started to look for other things to do. It all started with a Web ring for personalized gifts. He began his online marketing career as a drop shipper, and then one day in 1999 a merchant asked to place a banner ad on Knoblach’s page. He was stunned, given that the business wanted to pay him $5,000 and could have just put the ad up on the ring for free. Knoblach took the deal and the next thing he knew that merchant’s direct competition called and wanted to place an ad. Suddenly there was a bidding war and Knoblach was the beneficiary.

Then “affiliate marketing was invented” Knoblach says, and the merchant asked if instead of incurring the shipping charges and the hassles associated with drop shipping if Knoblach wanted to be an affiliate.

Meanwhile, four years had passed and within the California foster care system, you had to relinquish care of a foster child or adopt them. There was no question in Knoblach’s mind that he could never give up Jesse.

So he began the complex process to legally adopt, but there were some huge hurdles. The first and foremost issue was that Jesse is African-American and Knoblach is Caucasian and California had very strict state laws governing interracial adoption. After years of legal battle, racial sensitivity training classes and a yearlong court-imposed order whereby the two had to move to New York for a year to be close to Knoblach’s Long Island family, the adoption was legally sanctioned.

When the year in New York was up, Jesse was five and they immediately planned to move back to LA but “stopped in Las Vegas on the way home and never left.”

Viva Las Vegas!

Living in Sin City isn’t for everyone, but Knoblach isn’t like everyone. For him that straight-laced life conjured up images of parents that spent little time with their kids. “I didn’t want to see Jesse just 10 minutes a day. I wanted to have work that would let me spend my life with him.”

The pair has been living in Las Vegas for nine years and Jesse, who is now 13 and in the seventh grade, spends lots of quality time with his dad. Bill Kay can thank his job as an affiliate marketer for that freedom.

“I thought, all I have to do is put up a link and not deal with customers; why not?” he says. “I lucked out when I found this.”

Suddenly he started expanding, going from his mail order collectible site (MailOrderShoppe.com), which is still his main moneymaker, to niche sites (ceramic baby shoes, business cards, golf gifts, etc.) and coupon sites.

Currently he runs about 20 sites and typically wakes up each day at 4:00 a.m. to begin his three hours of work to update all the sites. By the time he’s through with that process, it’s time for him to get Jesse off to school. Once Jesse is gone, Knoblach gets into what he calls the experimental stuff and then he claims he’s burnt out by 10:00 a.m. When Jesse gets out of school at 2:30, he and Knoblach often go to one of a handful of casinos.

Knoblach takes his laptop and often works from a casino, whether it is the lobby of the Mirage or in a poolside cabana at the Palms. In fact, taped to the bottom of his laptop is his business license so that his place of business is wherever he happens to be working on his laptop at the time.

It sounds like something out of the movie “Casino.” One day he’ll be working at the MGM; the next he’s at the Excalibur. He’s treated well because he’s got host contacts at all of these casinos. That means he can call up his host at whatever establishment and say, “Jesse and I would like to see a show, or, we’d like to come swimming on Friday,” and whatever the request (within reason), it will be arranged immediately.

He boasts that he once had the presidential cabana at the Palms and that they kicked out Vince Neil of Motley Crue in order to make room for him and Jesse.

To celebrate Thanksgiving last year, the Luxor flew the pair up to Reno in a private jet. And then put them up at a swanky hotel. Jesse is also probably one of the few teenagers that receive a personalized Christmas card from the Maloofs, the billionaire owners of the Palms. Often one of these hotels will send a car to Jesse’s school to pick him up, where the 13-year-old will be greeted by a limo driver holding a sign with his name on it.

The high-roller treatment occurs because Knoblach is a regular and loyal gambler. Video poker is his game of choice. He says you don’t have to be super rich to get perks. All it really takes is loyalty and showing up at the same casinos. His coin-in rate (which is the amount of money you put in and how much that added up to before you cashed out) at the Palms last year was $1.8 million. He allows himself to gamble for one hour each day. He doesn’t set a money-spending limit but instead just sticks to his set time limit. During that hour he gives Jesse $20 to go to the casino’s arcade and lets the boy play video games.

After that the two get together for regular stuff – like dinner and homework. They enjoy spectator events such as movies, shows, sporting events. Although lately Jesse has been trying to get his dad into more participatory things like playing baseball rather than just watching it.

Creating a Family

Knoblach is anything but a spectator on the message forum ABestWeb.com. He’s an active and vocal poster at ABW, which he likens to a family. That’s very important to him because he says he’s not particularly close to his own family.

He also gives back and treats his ABW “family” well – especially when he gets to play host in his “hometown.” At the Affiliate Summit conference, which was held in Vegas last January, four hotels gave Knoblach comp rooms. He ended up passing on that good fortune to several out-of-town affiliates attending the show to help them defer costs. He also generously offered a few of his colleagues some friendly gambling tips. And in one case his advice helped net a friend a $500 payout.

He credits others with helping him along the way – especially Haiko de Poel Jr., ABW’s founder [and Shawn Collins]. “If it weren’t for Haiko, Billy Kay wouldn’t exist,” he says. “They are both really good at what they do and I got so much from both of them.”

The rest he’s learned through much trial and error and lots of research. “You’ve got to do your research. It’s 90 percent of your job as an affiliate.”

He also says that he works backwards. When he was planning to create a site for license plate frames, he did a search to check on what search terms people are using for them. Then he made 48 pages using the 48 exact terms people searched for. No more; no less.

Research is important but so are common sense and good instincts. Because of his previous work, Knoblach claims that he can think much like the bad actors out there trying to steal commissions. This helps him put in place ways to thwart parasites and other bad folks. It also helps him when analyzing his numbers. He’s good at spotting inconsistencies and looking for the angles.

So, the obvious question is, why hasn’t someone who has an aptitude for fast talking and making money, perverted his online business (which is always ripe for scammers) into that kind of operation – especially since so many of these scammers do it because it’s very lucrative?

“I have a conscience. It would only take a second for me to do something bad, but I won’t. I spend half of my day trying to defeat the bad apples. It’s a pain. I truly believe that some congressman’s wife will get a bug about this and then there will be regulation regarding this behavior.”

Instead, he’s fallen in with a crowd that abhors that type of behavior and is not shy about making it public.

Meanwhile, Knoblach spends a lot of his work life looking into new things. “Copying and pasting links is drudge work. Thinking about new ideas is the fun part.” He’s getting into a partnership with some peers from the affiliate space, but he coyly declined to provide any details except to say that “it will be bigger than eBates.”

But Knoblach’s life as an affiliate is really just about having a job that allows him to focus on raising Jesse. His work gives them both freedom and a good life filled with fun and enjoyment. We’re not a regular family but “life is great. Who could ask for more?”

The Art of Wooing Affiliates

“You spammed me,” I said with a smile to the affiliate network manager standing next to me as we posed for a picture together at the last Affiliate Summit. Her smile suddenly disappeared.

Kind, compassionate and understanding person that I am, I fervently hoped to hear an honest, if not apologetic reply that would give me the slightest reason to consider ever doing business with her network’s merchants.

Despite tripping over herself with admissions of having been “horrified” when she realized that she’d spammed me, she left me in the dark as to why she would try to solicit my attention through the email address that I use only for domain registrations.

Here’s a tip for affiliates: Creating a unique email address for individual functions such as domain registrations is an effective way to ferret out spammers. Filter email sent to that address into a separate folder and check it occasionally to see who is operating on the dark side. Delete the address to which the spam was sent and make a note never to do business with that company.

OK, it should be fairly obvious that I have almost no compassion for spammers. I was simply curious to see what excuse she could come up with on the fly. However, there was no excuse because there simply is no excuse.

First of all, spamming is illegal, which makes it a lousy way to try and recruit super-affiliates for anyone who cares about their reputation as a trustworthy business partner.

Secondly, I am hardly an under-the-radar affiliate. My contact information is almost too easy to find. Google my name with or without quotes and my affiliate marketing “how-to” site floats to the top of the natural search results. In the upper right-hand corner of every page on that site there is a link to my Support Desk, at which my virtual assistant, Joel, is eagerly standing by to field questions from affiliates, managers and merchants alike. Our Support Desk is open to anyone and everyone. No proof of purchase is necessary and the only skill required is the ability to correctly enter an email address.

If a not-so-savvy surfer somehow misses the listing for that site in the search results, the vast majority of the other 999 results which Google serves on a query for my name are affiliates who link to another of my sites, which also includes a clearly labeled link to my Support Desk.

Regardless of how one chooses to get to the Support Desk, the manner in which a solicitation is worded determines the response (or lack thereof) that it receives.

Authors of generic blasts that do not include my name or are addressed to some variation of “Dear Affiliate” or “Future JV Partner” are sent a canned but friendly TYBNTY (Thank-You-But-NO-Thank-You) note. And they should consider themselves lucky that we take the time to do them the courtesy of a reply.

Those who address their request appropriately but then hype the offer receive the same note, as do merchants and managers who provide insufficient or incomplete details.

The number of correspondents that fail to show basic courtesy by including their real name and full contact details is staggering. I used to try making the point by addressing replies to “Dear ___” or “Dear Your Affiliate Team,” but I am not in the business of teaching basic email etiquette, so they too now get a canned TYBNTY.

I’m also not in business to research offers that are not only unsolicited, but which are also apparently a secret. I don’t really care if you have a “ground-breaking opportunity which will make affiliates a lot of money.” So does every other merchant, and Sherlock Holmes I am not.

Tell me what the product is, and include a link to the specific offer’s sales page. Also, if the offer is restricted to a U.S. audience, please provide a link that does not redirect my Canadian IP address to Classmates.com. Please apply the same technology within your network interface so that non-U.S. affiliates can view all merchant landing pages. I asked for that feature at MaxBounty and they were only too happy to oblige, so we know it’s doable.

Then there are those pitches for products that are completely irrelevant to my audience. If I find those before Joel has a chance to send a TYBNTY reply, they are summarily deleted. Seriously, why waste your time trying to get me to promote George Foreman grills on my dating service review site?

Do your homework and check out my sites before you contact me with your offer. Find the page on my site where your offer should be placed for the greatest impact and don’t bother to suggest that it should be placed on my home page.

Answer the question, “What’s in it for Ros?” If the offer is available on several other networks or directly through the merchant’s own affiliate program, the commission rate you offer has to beat them all, or any chance of further discussion will stop right there. Furthermore, be specific about how much more you can offer than each of the other guys.

Better yet, if the product is an online service or piece of software, kindly provide me with a username and password so that I can assess the product for review purposes. Doing so costs next to nothing, and if I really like the product and continue to use it, your product will receive a stellar review and subsequently many more sales. On the other hand, you could provide me with time-limited access, but then there is no guarantee that I will make time to review the product by your deadline.

Best of all, if you have a real product and are inclined to send samples, hit me up for my mailing address. It’s unlikely that such a request will be denied. You can be sure that affiliate Colin Mc- Dougall promoted the heck out of the inflatable boat that he was paddling around Vaseux Lake last summer.

We super-affiliates also work harder for merchants and managers who go the extra mile to get to know their affiliates. For example, while attending a conference in Los Angeles, two of my Australian- based merchants went 1,568 miles out of their way just to take me out for dinner. By result, I have been promoting their product for almost nine years and don’t intend to stop anytime soon.

If you’re not inclined to visit Beautiful British Columbia, then chat me up at a conference. Make it your job to learn that the super-affiliate you wish to recruit prefers beer over wine and dark beer over light. Super-affiliates eat too; so an invitation to lunch is always a good segue to doing business.

Having shared a belly laugh or two over lunch, you by now have my business card and telephone number. Do a follow-up call. Propose your best offer and have the name or number handy of the offer that you want me to look at.

Next, follow the call up with an email (yes, by now you also have my private email address) and include a link to the offer along with a list of keyword suggestions. Consider sending unique copy targeted to my audience and which I am allowed to edit. Barring long copy, a bullet list of product benefits and features is also very much appreciated. At this point, your job is done. Now just sit back, relax and watch for the sales spike.

There are many ways to get my attention and me working for you as a super-affiliate. Plaguing me with spam, however, is not one of them – especially when I’m already affiliated with your network!

Rosalind Gardner is a super-affiliate who’s been in the business since 1998. She’s also the author of The Super Affiliate Handbook: How I Made $436,797 in One Year Selling Other People’s Stuff Online. Her best-selling book is available on Amazon and www.SuperAffiliateHandbook.com.

Hire Up

Even the most traditional companies don’t need to be convinced anymore that Internet advertising and marketing is no longer optional. Today companies from the Fortune 1000 on down, which were reluctant to explore the Web in the late 1990s, are shifting their resources online.

The proven return on investment of Internet advertising is one reason; another is that user-generated content sites such as MySpace.com and YouTube.com offer new opportunities to reach customers more intimately and effectively.

Internet advertising growth has soared during the past three years due to improved advertising technologies and the spread of broadband Internet service. PricewaterhouseCoopers expects the Internet to receive 10 percent of total global advertising by 2010 compared with less than 3 percent in 2002.

Areas of Increased Spending in 2006 vs. 2007 eMarketer estimates that total U.S. Internet ad spend was $16.4 billion for 2006, a 30.8 percent gain over 2005’s $12.5 billion figure, and predicts that online ad spend will reach $23.8 billion by 2008.

EXPERIENCED EMPLOYEES ONLY

This drastic surge in online advertising has dramatically increased the need for skilled employees. Advertisers who have know-how selling and measuring online campaigns, and marketers who can create innovative Internet initiatives, are in high demand. And as companies understand the power of ROI-based online marketing efforts such as affiliate and search marketing, there has been a sharp increase in the demand to hire performance marketers.

Compounding this demand is the advent of Web 2.0 venues such as YouTube, Facebook and Second Life. Similar to the situation created by the late 1990s’ Internet boom, today there is a very small ready pool of experienced staff for the opportunities that Web 2.0 present because the venues are so new. Finding staff to manage the explosion in user-generated content, and leverage its marketing potential, is proving to be challenging.

This increased demand for qualified talent has recently been felt throughout the industry – from recruiters to employers to merchants. Smith McClure, division director of the Minneapolis branch of The Creative Group, is a recruiter for both traditional and online marketers. He says that demand is up and that the market for qualified talent for online marketing jobs is getting tighter.

Jane Paolucci, vice president of marketing for Coremetrics, a provider of on-demand Web analytics, agrees and says it is getting harder because business is growing at such a fast pace.

Todd Leeson, vice president of marketing for Jobster, says the number of searches for online marketing and online advertising jobs on the Jobster online recruiting site has increased threefold over one month – from October 2006 to November 2006.

During the fourth quarter of 2006, Sean Bisceglia, president of Aquent’s marketing staffing, a global marketing and creative services staffing firm, also noticed a major increase in the number of companies looking for online marketers. He says that 20 to 30 percent of his day-to-day job openings are for online marketing positions and that they are the hardest to fill because there are not enough specialized people.

In fact, an Aquent Marketing, Staffing and Spending survey found that the top three areas that corporate marketing departments planned to increase money for in 2005 were branding, Internet marketing and advertising. But in 2006, Internet marketing took the lead as the most sought-after position in the industry.

Two San Francisco Bay Area recruiters who are feeling the pinch are Sal Castillo, who owns his own group; and Marni Mires, a recruiter for the high tech executive search firm Quest Group. Mires says that Quest recently had candidates with multiple offers and that companies need to pull the trigger within two weeks or risk losing the candidate to another offer – a very different market than just a couple of years ago.

Castillo says that today’s online marketing jobs are very specialized: therefore, it is harder to find candidates that match all of the criteria: “Fifteen out of 100 resumes match the job skills that I am looking for.” Stephanie Schwab, vice president of marketing for Converseon, says “For every 100 resumes we get, there are about five or 10 that I’m interested in calling, and of those, about three to four that I want to meet.”

HIRING FOR SEARCH POSITIONS

According to Forrester Research’s report, The State of Retailing Online 2006, search marketing was responsible for 36 percent of new customers for online retailers in 2005. Search is the only advertising media where customers tell merchants what product they are looking for – and it is more effective than other advertising because the advertiser can tailor its targeting and message to each specific searcher’s need.

John Challenger, CEO of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, Inc., an international outplacement consulting firm, says “Companies cannot afford not to put their dollars in this area because it is so focused.”

FathomOnline’s CEO Dean DeBiase says, “If you’re not present in the search results, your competition will be.” This fear is causing companies to rush out and hire search marketers en masse.

Percent of New Online Customers for Online Retailers/Marketing Spend Mix (2005) Challenger says that SEO and search marketing are really hot markets for hiring. Jobster’s Leeson says they have seen an increase in the demand for search engine marketers by companies of all stripes “ever since Google revolutionized the way that people advertise through AdWords.” Quest’s Mires says that she gets a lot of requests for search marketers – especially for people who have established relationships with Yahoo, Google, MSN and have lots of online consumer experience.

Chris Raniere, CEO of Revcube, a software provider for multichannel online ad campaigns, says that the hardest job for him to fill is for search marketing. He says that anyone with more than six months of experience working with Google and running campaigns is very hard to find.

And recruiter McClure agrees: “People with big-scope experience from Yahoo and Google have their pick of positions because all of the Fortune 500 are doing search now.”

Coremetrics’ Paolucci says that experienced search people will get harder to find. A 2006 Coremetrics survey asked 120 marketing professionals in the U.S. and the U.K. about the methods they used to reach customers. It found that 31 percent of respondents think SEM is the most important skill in their current role and 60 percent of respondents feel that SEM skills have become more important over the past two months.

Data from MarketingSherpa’s Search Marketing 2007 Benchmark Guide finds that SEM professionals with zero to one year of experience can command $55,000 to $75,000 and those with three years of experience can get $80,000 to $100,000. Mid-level managers with SEM experience of just one year can fetch $85,000 to $100,000 and those with three years of experience can command $110,000 to $125,000.

Converseon’s Schwab says she can find junior-level people out of college with one year of Internet experience and hire them as account coordinators in their search group for approximately $40,000.

HIRING FOR AFFILIATE MANAGERS

Others say it’s much harder to hire affiliate managers. “Hiring for search employees is competitive but easier than hiring for affiliate managers,” Schwab says, explaining that it is the hardest position for them to fill because the skill set is so broad – including coding, graphics, communications and affiliate relations.

Three years ago, affiliate management was a one- or two-day-a-week job but today it’s a full-time job, according to consultant Shawn Collins, who does some outsourced affiliate program management. He says that hiring for affiliate managers “has been difficult for as long as I can remember” and says it is because the job requires experience and relationships, which take time to build.

Consultant Andy Rodriguez agrees that hiring an affiliate manager is challenging because the person has to wear many hats. He says that out of the 12 people he has hired, only two of them have worked out. “They were overwhelmed – it’s difficult – it is not a straightforward job,” he says. Rodriguez says that he spends 20 to 25 percent of his time reading during the week to keep up to speed on the industry.

LinkConnector’s CEO Choots Humphries says the qualities LinkConnector looks for in an affiliate manager include someone with a technical background so they can walk affiliates and merchants through code; the ability to communicate well in writing and speaking; strong analytical and problem-solving skills; and they must be smart enough to understand that the affiliate management industry is fluid and constantly changing and they have to want to keep up with it.

Humphries says being located in the highly educated population of Research Triangle has helped their hiring efforts. In addition to using staffing companies like Manpower and job sites like Monster, LinkConnector hired a full-time director (now LinkConnector’s COO) to be responsible for staffing their merchant and affiliate relations department. Humphries says this was key to their success in staffing because it is very difficult to convey the requirements of the job to someone outside the company – an in-house staffing person was “in a better position to know exactly what qualities would work well within our network and industry.”

Humphries says the company has hired 20 people and only two have not worked out because of the demanding and fast-paced nature of the industry.

Justin Johnson, affiliate manager at SierraTradingPost.com, looks for affiliate managers who have great communication skills, are enthusiastic and self-motivated. He says the technical aspects of the job can be learned. Johnson says his company has been able to find the majority of its personnel in the Cheyenne, Wyo. area, with some people willing to have a longer commute from Fort Collins, Colo., or Laramie, Wyo., which is 51 miles away.

Schwab notes that for senior-level people with affiliate experience, it is very hard for Converseon to hire because they have to compete in New York City where there are others like LinkShare and CPA organizations such as Azoogle and Neverblue, as well as tons of agencies and merchants.

One remedy for hiring affiliate managers is to outsource, a trend that consultant Collins anticipates will increase. Collins worked as an outsourced affiliate manager for Payless Shoes from 2001 to 2006 because of the limited pool of talent in Topeka, Kan., where Payless is based.

Most-visited Vertical Job Search Engine Websites A lot of the bigger brands outsource affiliate managers to agencies such as NETexponent, Converseon, PartnerCentric and Pepperjam. PartnerCentric’s CEO Linda Woods describes why outsourcing is popular: “Companies need an affiliate manager, so they run an ad on Monster.com. They can’t find talent in their town. They come to PartnerCentric. They don’t need to hire people, pay salaries, pay benefits or train people. We do it for them. The arrangement could go on for years.”

WORD OF MOUTH

It seems every company in this industry believes that word of mouth is the most powerful way to find top-shelf candidates.

Coremetrics’ Paolucci says, “The No. 1 way we find people is through referrals – there is a network out there.” PartnerCentric’s Woods adds that a lot of their employees encourage other people to join. Schwab says that Converseon’s best hires are always word of mouth and that the last senior-level affiliate they hired came through a referral.

In November 2006, The Conference Board, which follows business cycle indicators for the U.S. and eight other countries, found that almost half of all job seekers (49.2 percent) rely on word-of-mouth leads from friends, colleagues and other people in their personal network to find jobs. In fact, 27 percent of employers found their jobs from networking.

JOB SITES

Another method is the job boards, which are growing in popularity. In fact, in the first week of 2007, employment seekers increased job search Web traffic by 31 percent, according to market researcher Hitwise. Among the top employment sites for the first week of January were CareerBuilder with 13.73 percent; Monster with 11.51 percent and Yahoo HotJobs with 5.3 percent.

Schwab says Converseon has not found people through Monster or Yahoo because they are too broad, but do use MarketingSherpa, MediaPost, craigslist and Shawn Collins’ AffiliateManager.net for affiliate marketing positions, which PartnerCentric’s Woods uses as well.

Increasing in popularity is a number of niche job sites such as the aggregator site Indeed.com, Dice.com for technology jobs and some industry-specific sites such as OnlineMarketingJobs.com and its sister site JobsInSearch.com.

Hitwise reports significant increases in market share at vertical job search engine sites. Visits at Indeed zoomed 302 percent and Jobster’s share jumped 355 percent from July 2006 to January 2007.

Other sites that are changing the way people look for jobs are the social networking sites such as Jobster and LinkedIn. These sites enable companies to find passive candidates – those who aren’t looking for a job, but are interested in hearing about new opportunities.

Staffing firm Aquent uses Jobster to build online networks of contacts within the marketing community – it is a way for them to manage passive candidates and referrals. Jobster posts user-generated content by those who come to share their experiences – so employees reveal the real scoop on companies.

Many recruiters, such as Castillo, use LinkedIn on a daily basis because it is a good single resource. He says the personal information is updated and correct and consistent in quality across the board. Heidi Perry, vice president of marketing at gaming publisher PlayFirst, says her company found other candidates from LinkedIn and is trying it for an online marketing associate position because “online marketers tend to run in circles.”

LinkedIn’s subscriptions for accessing people outside of one’s personal network cost $20 per month. Big corporations, such as Microsoft and Salesforce, pay between $10,000 and $100,000 annually to let their internal recruiting staff use LinkedIn’s database for potential hires.

GOING VIRTUAL

Some companies are venturing into the virtual world of Second Life, which has grown explosively and is inhabited by more than 2.9 million people from around the globe. AKQA, a global marketing and technology services company, says that it will use Second Life as a hub for recruiting because they believe that the Second Life community is full of early adopters and trendsetters, which are the type of people they want to hire.

As the economy continues to bubble along and online marketing becomes ever more desirable, it will be important to watch if the supply of online marketers keep up with demand.

PartnerCentric’s Woods thinks it will: “There is more talent than there used to be. When I started my consultancy four years ago there were times when sales were exceeding the capacity to service them and it was quite a juggle finding experienced people.” But Woods says that is in the past. Now Woods thinks there are more affiliate marketers around in general, and because affiliate managers can work remotely there are more candidates to choose from nationwide.

Tracy Cote, executive director of human resources for the agency Organic, says that the market is hotter but they are receiving more applicants – she has seen a 65 percent increase in resumes from November 2005 to November 2006.

“Certainly more people are training as affiliate managers as more programs come online. But if the growth of programs continues, there will continue to be a shortage of qualified people. It’s a bit of a vicious cycle,” Converseon’s Schwab says.

One source of online marketers are the former Google employees who are reportedly leaving because they feel limited and restless in their jobs (and many received huge payouts and stock options when the company went public). This could be a tremendous source of talent although these smart people may start their own companies.

In just a few years, the face of the recruiting process has changed considerably. Niche and social networking job sites have dramatically altered how companies find talent – the pool of contacts has drastically widened and the days of reviewing resumes to learn an individual’s work history and level of education are disappearing. Today recruiters can “Google” an applicant’s name to find out if they are who they say they are and candidates can place on their resume a URL that links to campaign examples of their work.

Learning Outside the Box

Many of today’s online marketers have unrelated backgrounds and have learned their profession through on-the-job training and supplemental offerings.

The situation is similar to the first iteration of marketing on the Web in the 1990s. But unlike 10 years ago, there are more ways to learn and get information such as webinars and online courses; enrichment classes such as weekend training, conferences and boot camps; countless websites; and dozens of books and videos.

Because online marketing has become a bona fide career path, it seems reasonable to expect that university business schools would be offering undergraduate and graduate students a specific online marketing course or devoting a lot of time to its importance. But that’s not necessarily the case.

Over the last several years Choots Humphries, co-president of LinkConnector, an affiliate marketing network, has been a guest speaker at an M.B.A. program at a university on the East Coast where he addresses the incoming first-year grad students regarding online marketing. He has been “dumbfounded” at the lack of understanding of basic concepts. “They don’t know what AdWords is or what a merchant is,” Humphries says.

And he’s surprised that these new business school students know so little about such an important part of the economy. After all, according to Forrester Research, online retail commerce represents about 10 percent of total U.S. retail sales, and it is expected to grow to 13 percent by 2010. That begs the question: Are universities teaching the basics about such a vital aspect of commerce, or is online marketing still the domain of specialized education?

1. College 101

At the University of San Francisco’s Masagung Graduate School of Management, courses in finance, management and accounting all include readings and case studies that describe the impact of technology and online marketing in that discipline, according to Associate Dean Eugene Muscat. He believes the concepts of online marketing have achieved the same academic critical mass as the study of globalization and ethics and says that these three subjects should be included in each course of study as essential business literacy skills.

Muscat says USF does not teach a separate online marketing course because “to have a separate course in online marketing would run the risk of implying that the topic is only relevant to students majoring in marketing.”

Heidi Perry, vice president of marketing at gaming publisher PlayFirst, who graduated with an M.B.A. from Oxford University in 2004, says she took a marketing elective that had a section on online marketing. Perry thinks that certain graduate schools will eventually offer an online marketing course as an elective, but most schools will try to combine online marketing with other topics to give a candidate a more holistic view.

Although the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business does not offer a specific online marketing course, Andrew Whinston, director of UT’s Center for Research in Electronics, says it makes more sense to teach entrepreneurship because the Web moves extremely fast.

“Think about how much the social networks have impacted online marketing just in the past year ” and if you look at some case studies of Internet companies from three years ago, it is like teaching history,” Whinston says.

However, there are many non-degree programs for learning about online marketing that are geared for people who want to enter the profession. Recruiters, such as The Creative Group, are encouraging traditional marketers who are trying to get into online marketing to take such courses to round out their skills and increase their marketability, according to Smith McClure, division director of the Minneapolis branch of the company.

NYU’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies (SCPS) offers dozens of non-degree marketing courses that can be applied toward a certificate in digital marketing. In the fall of 2006, consultant Shawn Collins was brought in to guest lecture at SCPS’s eight-week Strategic Search Engine Marketing class and gave a top-level overview of how affiliate managers should run programs. Ben Kirshner, founder of New York-based Elite SEM, taught the course and says that the students were extremely enthusiastic because they could apply the tactics they learned in an evening’s class to their jobs the next day.

Because Google sponsored the class, students were given a $50 credit to set up an AdWords account to learn how it worked, and were given the opportunity to take the Google AdWords professional exam for free, which is normally $50. Some of the students were able to put on their resumes that they passed the exam, a leg up for those who are applying for jobs at Google or Yahoo or an interactive agency. Kirshner says the class encompassed a mix of people – some were employees of companies who sent them there so they could better understand how to manage their online campaigns.

2. On the Company’s Dime

Many companies offer their employees online marketing training – through classes and in-house sessions – because of the shortage of qualified online marketers and because the industry changes so fast. Michael Taylor, founder of OnlineMarketingJobs.com, says companies hire people with existing account management skills and then train them for the online marketing techniques pertinent to their company.

So how do companies teach online marketing skills to their employees? PlayFirst’s Perry says that her company balances formal with informal training, and it does a lot of its training through group collaboration and brainstorming. The company also tries to send each marketing employee to the conference of their choice every year.

Dean DeBiase, CEO of Fathom Online, a search marketing and Web analytics company, says they are obsessed with training and view it as a strategic weapon to keep up with the constant changes made by Google, MSN, Yahoo, Ask.com and MIVA. Fathom Online offers two types of training – a 60-day, in-person training program for new recruits and ongoing training through modules to train employees on the latest topics such as analytics, in-game advertising and mobile search. This training is deployed through voice conferencing, video conferencing and WebEx.

Bob Chatham, senior vice president of education at WebSideStory, a provider of on-demand digital marketing applications, says that its employee and customer training program, Digital Marketing University, is a three-day course that teaches WebSideStory’s HBX analytics and Visual Site applications, which help marketers to optimize their search campaign by seeing how their paid and organic search terms are converting.

Chatham says he has seen courses relevant to digital marketing offered through e-commerce programs at schools including Babson College and Northeastern University – both in the Boston area – but has not seen any semester-long Web analytics courses. He notes that there are strong professional training programs on the subject such as one at the University of British Columbia.

3. Learn From the Masters

Chatham stresses that a lot of the good practical expertise lives with the consultants, such as Jeff Eisenberg and Bryan Eisenberg from Future Now; Gary Angel from SEMphonic; and Jim Sterne, who created the Emetrics Summit. Chatham notes that these same experts who speak at the University of British Columbia’s programs also speak at WebSideStory’s Digital Marketing University and other industry conferences. “I think the best way to get up-to-date information and the best training is through industry expert workshops,” Chatham says.

Attempting to fill a knowledge gap, Aaron Kahlow, managing partner of Business OnLine, created the Online Marketing Summit, which was held in San Diego in February. “I have spoken at many conferences including Ad:Tech and the DMA Conference and I am always surprised at how little industry folks know.”

He says that other industry conferences do not offer training or improve attendees’ understanding. He says they are all “either too technical or all about the future and predictions. This is great for investors but how does that help a tactical day-to-day marketer?”

Kahlow says that the industry needs to focus on education. “We are just getting to a point where best practices are established and the amount of change is slowing,” he says, adding that the most popular sessions at his show include workshops on search engine marketing and performance metrics.

However, if you want to be an affiliate marketer, formalized educational avenues are very limited. Stephanie Schwab, vice president of marketing at Converseon, thinks professors are in their ivory towers and are not aware of affiliate marketing. Consultant Andy Rodriguez says that he is surprised to not find any colleges teaching affiliate marketing in southern Florida. Consultant Colin McDougall has had similar findings in his area of British Columbia. But Rosalind Gardner says she is aware of a professor who was using her book, The Super Affiliate Handbook, to teach affiliate marketing in his university class.

The most convenient and least expensive way for newcomers to get their feet wet is to read the many websites, blogs and forums (message boards) related to affiliate marketing. “The best place that I have learned about affiliate marketing is from the community at ABestWeb.com,” says Kristin Collier, founder of MadHatter Consulting.

Consultant and author James Martell cautions that those looking for information must rely on credible sources such as the websites of Commission Junction and LinkShare, along with forums including http://affiliate- blogs.5staraffiliateprograms.com/ and AffiliatePrograms.com. Martell warns that forums can be good and bad because “they can take you down the wrong path” and says it is important to follow a person who is an affiliate and not just a writer.

McDougall says that there is a ton of “how-to” books on the market for teaching affiliates how to earn a living but warns that many of the “silver bullet” books sold teach how to manipulate holes in the Google algorithm, which can quickly become out of date. For this reason, Gardner says that her book is updated almost monthly and “every so often I offer previous purchasers a totally updated version of the book at a steep discount.”

4. Mentoring

McDougall recommends that affiliates find a mentor; a practice that he believes will become more popular in the near future. He says there a re some Internet and phone-based seminars today, but very few provide individual attention, and explains that assisting an affiliate in devising an individual plan of attack is very helpful – “some people struggle with time management while others struggle with technical issues.” McDougall says that he provides some complimentary mentoring but mainly it’s a paid relationship. Gardner says she has never participated in a mentoring program although she has done telephone consultations, which she calls short-term coaching.

5. Podcasts, Training & DVDs, Oh My!

Podcasts are a good way for people who haven’t quit their day job yet to learn about affiliate marketing. And there are plenty to select from. On WebmasterRadio, there is Good Karma by Greg Niland; Affiliate Marketing Today by Jeremy Palmer and Robin Walsh; and Net Income by Jeremy Shoemaker. Affiliate Thing features Revenue’s Lisa Picarille and consultant Collins on WebMasterRadio.com.

For those who want more interaction, Martell recommends videos. He has an eight-video program that corresponds with the eight steps outlined in his book, Affiliate Marketers Handbook. Anik Singal’s The Affiliate Classroom is a Web-based step-by-step training program to help people launch and grow their own affiliate Internet business. It reaches over 35,000 active affiliate marketers through its magazine and newsletter and is in the business incubator program at the University of Maryland. Another popular training program, Stomper Net, is offered by Brad Fallon and Andy Jenkins, and comprises DVD training and an online forum.

Nearly all industry experts recommend attending as many conferences as possible such as the twice-yearly Affiliate Summit, WebMasterWorld and e-Tail; along with the invite-only network events such as CJU and the LinkShare Summit.

“Affiliate marketing is an extremely social industry and we learn from each other. It is good to sit down and have face-to-face conversations with affiliates, managers and merchants. The sessions can be valuable as well,” MadHatter Consulting’s Collier says.

6. Experience vs. Classroom

Affiliate manager jobs are in high demand – so how can they obtain the training they need to do the multifaceted duties required – everything from HTML to creative to sales? Most think it is a learn-by-doing job. For one reason, managers need to have established relationships. “It is not about an M.B.A., but a person who can pick up the phone and leverage their contacts,” says Shawn Collins. Also affiliate managers need to understand “in the trenches” challenges like how they stack up again their competitors in terms of metrics like conversion rates, average order sizes and earnings per click. And most employers want to hire managers with specialized skills – and techniques learned in formal training can be too broad. Moreover, Converseon’s Schwab says that many classes only teach strategy and not tactics and “we need to hire people who can do the job.”

However, a background in marketing is helpful and there are aspects that can be taught in a course such as how the networks operate and the fundamentals of how to recruit, how to activate and how to retain affiliates. Still, PartnerCentric’s Linda Woods says that there is no way she would hire an inexperienced affiliate manager: “I wouldn’t hire anyone just because they took a couple of courses on Internet marketing.” She believes managers need on-the-job training and the training that is offered through seminars.

7. Affiliate Management Seminars

Industry experts like Rosalind Gardner recommend attending conferences such as Andy Rodriguez’s Affiliate Manager Certification Seminar and Anik Singal’s Affiliate Manager Boot Camp to learn affiliate management skills.

Rodriguez’s program is a three-day course and attendees are certified upon completion. Rodriguez and guest speakers teach attendees about formulas that work and promotional ideas as well as warn them about potential pitfalls such as identifying spyware that could affect program performance.

In 2006, Singal had a four-hour, in-person boot camp the day after the Affiliate Summit and he plans more for the future. Like Rodriguez’s program, it was created in response to demand by merchants who needed managers for their programs. Singal says that the attendees include new merchants who are trying to get in the game, merchants who are trying to fix their programs, affiliates who want to be managers and managers who want to improve their abilities.

8. Looking Ahead

Currently there are many options to learn about online marketing that fit into everyone’s schedule: You could attend a weekend boot camp, listen to a podcast on the way home from work, pop in a video on Saturday morning, watch a webinar during your lunch break or find a mentor to walk you through a challenging process.

Most university programs only touch on online marketing as part of entrepreneurship but do not teach it as a separate course for several reasons. One is that the industry’s fast pace has challenged the development of an up-to-date curriculum, which is needed to add a course to a degree program.

Another is that the real industry knowledge lies with the experts, who are busy leading companies and are limited to speaking and teaching at conferences and workshops. Some think that college professors would have trouble keeping abreast of this constantly evolving industry; although if the changes slow down and best practices are established, this may change.

Perhaps most importantly, it is all about up-to-date training: Employers desire employees with tactical online marketing skills from real-world experience, and they would rather hire someone who was trained through last month’s professional training program than someone who studied affiliate management as part of an undergraduate degree in marketing three years ago.

It’s all about training and educating the future generation of online marketers so the space can continue to grow and flourish.

How Do Companies Train Affiliate Managers?

Converseon starts by having new employees review hundreds and sometimes thousands of affiliate sites for approvals because Converseon does not do auto-approvals. The new employees examine sites to determine if they are good – how they are designed, to whom they link and how they are promoting their competitors. Vice President Stephanie Schwab says they encourage their employees to read industry blogs as much as possible, like Scott Jangro’s, Shawn Collins’ and ABestWeb. She likes to send employees to conferences like the Affiliate Summit, so affiliate managers can understand the business from a macroview, and to webinars like eComXpo because of its convenience.

PartnerCentric’s Linda Woods says that they train their employees for PartnerCentric processes, reporting and practices through weekly telephone conference calls among the account managers and staff of approximately 25 people. “Once a month, we have a training call where they are learning something like a new way of reporting to a client, a new activation campaign idea or a new technical tool that we will be using.”

Kristin Collier, former director of marketing at Batteries.com, credits consultant Andy Rodriguez with helping her become a successful affiliate manager. She is now the owner of MadHatter Consulting.

Q: How did you meet your mentor, Andy Rodriguez?

A: I actually met Andy virtually at first on ABestWeb.com. Batteries.com had recently opened a program on ShareASale due to LMI (link management initiative) and I noticed a thread on ABW about newsletters on ShareASale. Andy was hinting at a hidden secret about how to make these newsletters powerful so I sent him an email and he passed me a little information.

This was shortly before the Orlando Affiliate Summit in 2006, which is where I met him in person for the first time. I spent some time with him and many others, and asked as many questions as I could and then he offered to mentor me. I learned a lot from him in a very short amount of time and we still trade emails.

Do you think mentoring is important to this industry and do you think it is common?

A: I think mentoring is somewhat common. I know a few affiliates that mentor other affiliates if they see the passion, drive and thirst for knowledge in them. Andy is not my only mentor – other affiliates mentor me so I can learn more about PPC or about being a manager. I also help other affiliates and merchants learn the skills of good affiliate marketing and online marketing.

Do you think mentoring is mostly unpaid or paid?

A: When I think of mentoring, paid is not something that comes to mind. I do teach my clients about affiliate marketing but I am not mentoring them, I am consulting with them. Mentoring to me is taking the time out of your day to help someone else who truly wants to learn something that you know well, just to help them succeed.

Judi Moore: The Leaper

About Judi MooreJudi Moore is not a super-affiliate. She’s not even sure what that is. She doesn’t see this as a detriment. Being an affiliate is also not her first career. In fact, at 52 years old, she’s had a lifetime of work in the corporate world – in about three industries, she says – only to land back in her home state of Illinois, with six grown kids, husband No. 2, a Schnauzer and a burgeoning affiliate business.

She is the first one to say that she hasn’t really got a plan. She’s a leaper, not a looker, even though her diminutive frame doesn’t scream out that she’s a fighter. Always ready with a quip, her independence and voracious mind more than make up for her stature. Her personal motto is, “Leap and the net will appear.” And that is pretty much what she’s been doing her whole life.

What makes her stand out and helped inform her independent spirit goes all the way back to high school. Before she was even out of her senior year, she received a full scholarship to Brigham Young University in Utah back in the early ’70s. It was a long way from where she grew up in Illinois, but she grabbed her sweetheart, married him and lit out for Utah in nearly the same week. He was a farmer and followed her out there to see what he could do.

By Christmas of that year she and her husband were back in Illinois. Her attempt at higher education was over. As a good Mormon, she knew some of the expectations – get married, have kids, be faithful to the faith. But what she didn’t count on was living in a society that basically devalued her studies – journalism and the fine arts.

What she also didn’t count on was having a husband that abused her and was unfaithful. In 1981, after having three children and moving to Montana for her husband’s job, it was clear that her marriage was also over.

“I’m an independent sort,” she says, “and I swept up the kids and went to town. And felt betrayed. Then he filed for divorce. While there was domestic abuse – I was excommunicated from the church. I was the bad one in their eyes.”

She thought it was more than odd that when she arrived to start school, the reception was chilly. “I never expected to be looked at funny for being the one going to school and my husband working.” While she looks back at that time and calls it a “failure in my life,” the experience taught her a lot about liberty, self-determination, the troubles with blind faith and introduced the notion that “everything that happens to you puts you to the path you are on.”

These are all helpful pieces of life’s mosaic she took into the corporate world – with three kids and no college degree. She started selling radio ads in Montana. It was just a job that began as the “little girl order taker,” but she found she was good at it and moved to other kinds of marketing. Eventually she was going to stop work to be with family – but ended up in a small mortgage firm. Mortgage lender Countrywide Financial recruited her and made her an assistant manager and then regional manager. By then she was commuting two hours each way and decided to get back to Rockford, Ill. – where she and her second husband have been for 20 years, with her three kids and his three kids.

Judi Moore Along the way, they bought and sold a small radio station in New Mexico. Her second husband, Dave Moore, was known as the guy who would come into radio stations and turn them around if they were in trouble. Meeting him turned her around as well. She says that he just made the cut – before her radical feminism ruled out anything to do with marriage. “I’m not radical anymore,” she says. “It’s young blood that runs hot.” And it was her husband and his “geekiness” that first led her to the Internet. Also, she was at Countrywide Financial as a middle manager when the company went online, and while she didn’t know about things like eBay.com, she figured if she could sell books about mortgages online she could put some money away for retirement.

Moore will be the first one to tell you that she lacks an affinity for technology. Not that she can’t do it – she says she can pretty much teach herself anything – but she thought an easy way would be to have her husband and stepson code Web pages for her.

So in 2004 she opened LunchBreakShopping.com, her mall, selling everything from crafts to fashion to movies to bridal and baby stuff. Having come from corporate America, she knew first hand that many people shop online while at the office. She says she built the mall with one hand while holding the HTML book in the other and saw a little profit in the first year she filed a tax return.

She’s still not making big bucks and she knows that a bit more care in her campaigns may get her more notice. She’s not rich and she’s actually not looking to get rich – just a little extra for her husband’s retirement would be great. He retires soon and therefore she would love to find strategies to keep her commissions coming.

One turning point was joining ShareASale.com in the summer of 2005. Up until then her sales were fairly flat. “I learned from ABestWeb forums that I should give ShareASale a shot,” she said, “and kind of didn’t make a dime until that. I started seeing little successes with them.”

She also believes that her writing background gives her a leg up. She feels she can write good, tight copy. She’s kind of a newspaper nut and she will often see something in the paper that gives her an idea for an article. Something on mortgage advice to first-time home buyers, for example. She’s seen all the horror stories about home mortgages in the flesh and can usually come up with a small article that can be peppered with common sense. “Wise old grandma kind of stuff,” she says. She’ll write it up – about 700 words – and post it. She thinks that the quality of the writing gives her rankings a boost without any paid placement. The writing comes pretty naturally and it helps to have set templates or blog-style templates for her to pour the content into.

Today she owns about 50 domain names but she says that more than half are underdeveloped. In addition to her website LunchBreakShopping.com she has sites on home mortgages, Stanley Home Products, an all-things-Santa-Claus site and something she calls Middle Aged Spread, for people like herself, she says. Middle Aged Spread runs under the JudiMoore.com domain and is where she will sell a niche item for awhile – gifts, stuffed animals, diet-related items – and then just wipe the site clean and post a whole different niche product.

That’s not what she did in the beginning. The mall was an attempt to sell all things. It didn’t work too well. But once she picked a specific area – pajamas was the breakout one – things took off from there. “I’m interested in everything,” she says.

Midwestern Moxie

And while her interests are varied, her core is very Midwestern. She wakes up about 6 a.m. to see her husband off to work. She’ll fix his lunch and take something out to thaw for dinner. First thing in the morning, her husband usually goes to his newspaper while she runs to her computer to check stats on her sites. On some mornings – if she was up late the night before – she may go back to bed after he goes to work. If there is a lot of cut-and-paste work, she will save it to do it at night.

And while she’s “tried the PPC thing,” the results have been less than impressive. “I’ve tried it and come out with two or three specific things and my conversions are okay and so I let them run.” She just recently added Google analytics but still figures 80 percent of her traffic is from organic search. “With gifts and pajamas I must have a unique voice,” she says. Her husband and sons run some sites under her banner – about Linux and Linux books, which she says are quite popular. According to Moore, her husband has the traffic but hasn’t monetized it yet.

Judi Moore While she can code and is quick to learn, she says her husband is the real geek of the family. She says they have about eight computers in the house. And while she does have a laptop, it’s not her primary machine so she has to load it with the correct files every time she takes it out to the lake. She sent her first text message when she was in Las Vegas for Affiliate Summit in January. She says she knows just enough PHP coding to be dangerous. Of the eight computers she only uses two; the others are Linux test machines. She does have a Bluetooth phone and is wireless in the house, but still leads a life that is unencumbered by technology, including going sailing whenever possible and reading up to six books at a time (her most recent, the offbeat That’s Funny, You Don’t Look Buddhist: On Being a Faithful Jew and a Passionate Buddhist, by Sylvia Boorstein).

She says her creativity and the technical side don’t go well together. Her desk is a storm of sticky notes. Whether she is going to write or code depends on which side of her brain gets up in the morning, she says. She could be writing or she could be cutting and pasting. If she’s in the zone, she’ll stay up until 4:00 in the morning getting it just right. She’ll make a list the night before and even if she says she may ignore the list the next day, at least she organized her thoughts.

And while it takes planning to help your business grow, she’s taking it easy on dwelling too much on what it all will mean for her future. Maybe she’ll go back to school and chase that college degree that was so rudely put in suspended animation. But maybe she won’t. She says she’s toyed with the idea that she would make a good affiliate manager, but that would mean walking back into the corporate world. “I’m still just learning it all as fast as I can,” she says. And that is also part of the attraction. She likens the way mortgage rules change so often to the changes in the average affiliate business. “I love that about it.”

Meanwhile, she and her husband dream of the days ahead. She says they love to just “dink around together,” whether it’s traveling or going to the supermarket. They want to get to a warmer climate. He wants to sail but she’s not sure they should be that far from medical attention in case they need it. And since affiliate marketing is taking off for her this year, she thinks the dream could still happen. “But,” she adds, “if I have to pass out carts at Wal-Mart, so be it.”

She would love to move around as much as possible, now that the kids are out on their own – one’s in Iowa; one’s a midwife in Montana; another is a hospice care worker; two live in the same state as her and one was in New Jersey. Originally the attraction of affiliate marketing was that it was a business you can pack into a suitcase. Plus, she says, when you’re in radio you move around a lot, too. And while her husband switched to television and is now at the phone company, his retirement is imminent. When that happens they will be free to roam wherever they please. And that might end up being on a sailboat. Going across the country in a motor home also sounds appealing. But, she adds, whether on a boat or in a home, “I think I’ll be doing affiliate marketing until the day I die.”

Colin McDougall: The Timekeeper

This past summer, super-affiliate Colin McDougall traveled around British Columbia with his family in his newly purchased travel trailer. From mid-July through Labor Day weekend McDougall worked a grand total of about 10 hours from the road. The rest of the time he spent paddling his kids around in an inflatable kayak, feeding the ducks, building sandcastles on the beach and simply enjoying his free time.

Filling up his free time by enjoying hiking and camping is something that McDougall does a lot of these days. Recently he moved with his wife and two young daughters, ages 3 and 6, to a house on a mountain in Chilliwack, British Columbia, where their backyard is literally the vast expanse of Western Canada about 80 miles outside Vancouver.

McDougall loves the natural beauty of British Columbia’s mountains, rivers and lakes. He moved there to attend college after growing up more than 3,000 miles away on the St. Lawrence River in Brockville, Ontario, which is dubbed the City of the 1000 Islands.

In many ways, McDougall lives up to some Canadian stereotypes – he is remarkably polite and friendly. He’s a skier, climber and fisherman. He loves to drink Sleeman beer with friends and is a huge fan of the Canadian rock band Rush; such a fan that in 2004 he bought expensive second-row tickets on eBay to Rush’s 30th anniversary tour concert in Toronto, Ontario, and treated the friend who first turned him on to the band.

And McDougall has been engaging in his country’s national sports pastime – hockey – since he was 7 years old and still plays in a weekly league so he can get together with his pals.

For someone who is so affable, it’s surprising that McDougall doesn’t mind the often-solitary life of an affiliate marketer, which usually means working all day alone at the computer. He claims that when he needs to focus, he takes the new trailer that is typically parked in his yard, tows it to a nearby recreation area and spends hours working alone with no distractions.

McDougall admits being an affiliate can be a bit lonely, and combats this by getting together for coffee with other self-employed workers, primarily affiliate managers from the Vancouver area that he’s met at industry shows, which he enjoys attending.

Now that his business is going well, he works when he wants to and when he is most effective. For many years, however, McDougall did not have the freedom of working when and where he wanted and it was his frustrations about lack of free time and working at inconvenient times that motivated him into the affiliate game back in 2001.

Previously for 10 years, McDougall worked as a systems administrator – first for seven years at Nortel Networks, and then for three years at BC Hydro. Although he liked his job, he didn’t like the time that he was expected to work. As the computer guy, he was expected to be first guy in the office and last guy out. Often he would be paged at 2 a.m. and would then have to go into work. The grueling hours, in addition to more than two hours of commuting time from the suburbs of Vancouver into the city each day, put an incredible strain on him.

In March 2001, McDougall was playing hockey with a friend, Chuck Anderson, who is the ex-business partner of James Martell, author of the Affiliate Marketers Handbook. Anderson offered McDougall work writing code and building tools to manage the publishing of content for a handful of websites within Martell’s business in return for some “measly checks.”

One day Anderson approached McDougall with an idea: instead of receiving a check for his coding work, Anderson would teach him the business of affiliate marketing as payment. Because McDougall had an idea about how much money Anderson was making through his website, he agreed immediately to the deal.

Just months later, when the time came for McDougall to put his knowledge into practice and build his own affiliate site, he wasn’t sure how to determine which industry would be profitable, so he opted for credit cards because that was what Anderson was doing.

By late August 2001, McDougall was hard at work building a website for credit card merchants such as American Express and Chase. He was garnering high rankings on Google with all kinds of credit card-related terms, and his business was based entirely upon natural search. He was making lots of money, and by November 2001, just nine months after he started learning the affiliate marketing ropes, his affiliate income was about 2.5 times more than his full-time job at BC Hydro.

In February 2003, he took the nine-month parental job leave allowed to men in Canada and tacked on an extra six weeks of vacation from BC Hydro. He used that time to focus completely on his affiliate business. However, due to ranking fluctuations in Google, McDougall experienced some setbacks. His training with Martell and Anderson had focused primarily on how to make money directly from affiliate commissions by ranking high in Google. McDougall was quickly finding out – the hard way – that producing sites that were built solely to rank in the search engines with little thought to visitor experience was not a long-term business strategy.

Then a major shift occurred at Google’s that caused every one of McDougall’s sites to lose their ranking. The search giant began basing its coveted rankings on visitor experience factors such as visitor duration, quality of the site and depth of the site as opposed to easily manipulated factors such as inbound links from highly page-ranked sites. McDougall realized he was headed for trouble.

He experienced a severe drop in income over the span of a few months. For August of 2003 he earned $60,000. In September 2003 his commissions were down to $20,000. By October 2003 he’d dropped to $12,000 and when November rolled around, McDougall’s income from commissions had plummeted to around $6,000.

This substantial decrease was particularly alarming because McDougall had bought lots of expensive items based on his higher income, such as vehicles, a new house and lots of toys.

Decision Time

The diminishing income forced him to make a tough decision – either return from his extended parental leave at BC Hydro or quit and revamp his affiliate business. McDougall and his wife had started a family during his full-time transition to affiliate marketing and he was feeling the pressure of additional responsibility as well as hearing doubting comments from his friends. Still, he says it was an easy decision for him to leave his job because he felt it was no longer an option. Although his wife was worried about him leaving a position with excellent benefits and vacation time, she supported his decision.

But McDougall knew that in order to make this business really work he needed to turn to others for some new direction and decided to go directly to the horse’s mouth – Google.

So, in January 2004, he flew to the Search Engine Strategies conference in New York City.

While at the event he timed it so that he would “accidentally bump into” a high-profile senior Google engineer who was presenting (Matt Cutts).

During the encounter McDougall went through every step of the process that he was using to rank high in Google, and with every point, Cutts indicated when McDougall was on the right or wrong track and he took copious notes.

Right then McDougall decided that relying on Google as a primary source of income was a fool’s game. So he came up with a new business plan to focus only on a smaller number of sites and build multiple streams of traffic to them and work hard to establish their brand. His goal: a long-term sustainable business.

Part of his current business is The Visitor Enhanced Optimization Report, or the VEO Report. It’s an e-book McDougall sells through his website that began as pages and pages of a Word document that explained how to achieve rankings in Google. He sent these notes to a few friends who were also affiliates in an effort to save them from having to go back to real jobs. One friend suggested that these notes could be turned into an e-book and McDougall started writing the book when he wasn’t working on his affiliate sites. By late 2005 he sent it off to editors and currently it’s in its third revision.

To date, McDougall has done no traditional marketing for his e-book; its sales have largely been the result of word of mouth and mentions from influencers. He was eventually asked to write a blog for Revenews.com, do an SEO radio show and speak at some conferences.

At the July 2006 Affiliate Summit in Orlando, several people asked McDougall if they could pay him $3,000 a month to mentor them, which would entail his talking on the phone with them for two hours each week. He claims he could only ignore these types of requests for advice and information for so long. That’s when he decided to create some training programs such as the VEO Mentorship Program, which he plans to launch by January 2007.

It’s not only the lucrative benefits that drive McDougall to create training programs. He wants to share his knowledge with others. By training affiliates on how to effectively promote products, how to get traffic and how to build a business, he’s teaching them how to “build on rock rather than quicksand.”

He greatly benefited from receiving advice from top people in the field, such as Williams and Campbell, along with Rosalind Gardner (a fellow Canadian superaffiliate and author) and he wants to return the favor. “I didn’t learn this business all by myself. My philosophy is that 1+1=11.”

McDougall says that people often tell him that being an affiliate sounds like hard work. “There have been too many quick solutions where affiliates think they could make potentially thousands a month by slamming up some content with auto-generation site tools, then just sit back and push buttons, scrape content and provide results.”

Quality Time

McDougall claims if you care about your brand, you’re not going to risk that by spamming Google. He believes that behavior is giving affiliates a bad name. He warns there’s a real problem for affiliates who aren’t willing to provide quality content, which adds value for the visitors to the sites.

Quality content that serves McDougall’s visitors well in turn does well in Google. “I think the future of affiliate marketing is affiliates who provide quality content and work on branding themselves. If you’re not focusing on doing those types of activities, it’s going to be tougher to make a run at affiliate marketing.”

McDougall admits to having a lofty goal of creating some kind of advisory committee that puts together a code of ethics to which affiliates must adhere – similar to the licensing system for realtors because, “quite frankly, marketing is sales, and sales is cutthroat.”

That sort of regulation is just a dream, but McDougall says that following his dreams and keeping a positive attitude have enabled him to reach his goals. “When I saw that my friend Chuck was making three times as much as me and working a third as hard, I became very motivated to change my life.”

But the biggest motivator for McDougall has been the freedom that being your own boss provides; something he has wanted to do since he was 10 years old. When he was in his late teens, he tried to start a window-washing business because he wanted to be able to set his own hours. These entrepreneurial feelings never left him during jobs at Burger King, Godfather’s Pizza and Save-on- Foods grocery store in his school days. He also credits his college karate teacher, who inspired him to follow his dream.

He feels so strongly about working for yourself that in 2005 he wrote another e-book on the topic called The Positive Mind, which outlines everything a person needs to know to become their own boss.

Today McDougall has five sites, with 90 percent of his efforts going into two of them – VEOReport.com and Crediteria.com. He’d prefer not to reveal the other three sites because they are very niche and he does not want to create competition.

Based on his hard-won experience, McDougall has managed to carve out a very full life comprised of success and lots of free time. In early November, McDougall was in the process of buying another house so he could relocate his family to Langley, BC, to be closer to friends and relatives. The town of Chilliwack is so wary of outsiders that they are often unfriendly to newcomers and that included McDougall’s family. But thanks to affiliate marketing and some good timing, he can prioritize his family’s happiness over concerns about carrying two mortgages. That, for him, is the best example of money offering the kind of freedom that he cherishes.

Anne Fognano: The Mother Lode

The old adage that necessity is the mother of invention is certainly true when it comes to this mother.

More than a decade ago Anne Fognano, then a new mom, needed a way to earn additional income while being able to work from home.

She had just completed her master’s degree in clinical psychology when her son Austen was a year old. And while it was her dream to be a therapist working with children, she also loved being a mom and wanted to be home with her kids.

However, she was also used to engaging her mind and needed to keep busy. She was a Prodigy user, and paying for dial-up service she surfed the Web looking for parenting sites and family-oriented Web pages, but found little that was interesting or useful to her. Being an extremely curious person, Fognano began opening up the source code to some of those sites and then taught herself some HTML.

In 1997 she started a website for Beanie Baby collectors after being appalled by the scalping that surrounded the hot collectibles. Although not a massive collector, she just thought Beanie Babies were cute, and was irate about people taking advantage of kids by doing unsavory things like tracking the shipments to Hallmark stores or tracking UPS shipments and stealing them.

She also admits that she had a lot of time on her hands and no specific focus or mission. Her site FunkyMommys.com was designed as a trading board for moms and kids to swap Beanies without fear of being ripped off. At the height of the Beanie Babies craze, the site had more than 2,000 members but Ty, the maker of Beanie Babies, began to enforce its trademark in cyberspace and sent cease and desist letters to those using the word “beanie” and even “beans.”

Although Fognano at the time thought that she could have fought Ty (her message board was called Bouncing Beanie Board), she didn’t have the time or money for a protracted legal battle with a big company. She also could have just changed the name of her board; instead, she pulled down the site and contemplated her next move.

THE COUPON CRAZE

By now it was 1997 and Fognano still had a mortgage to pay and two young children to care for at home. So, she decided to put up an online resale shop for moms. She settled on a doll-house theme (see image) and then spent $2,000 to have an artist and programmer create the site. Fognano was very pleased with the way it turned out and thought the site was beautiful. Moms could post ads and pay her 25 cents for each one. Things were going pretty well. The site was getting some decent traffic and Fognano was adding even more content including coupons from an early dot-com drugstore (PlanetRX.com). The popularity of the coupon portion of the site led her to add a coupon box in the lower right corner of the page. Soon she noticed that 98 percent of her traffic was clicking directly on the coupon box.

But instead of being delighted, Fognano was devastated that she had worked so hard and spent so much money to create this site she loved but people were only interested in the coupons. After she emerged from her funk, she signed up with two of the first merchants to have affiliate programs – Amazon and Barnes & Noble – and she decided that she needed to dump her beloved doll-house theme and concentrate on the coupons.

Currently, Fognano has three very successful coupons sites – CleverMoms.com, CleverDads.com (manly things), CleverBabies (baby and toddler items through 5 years old). She is a super affiliate and works with Commission Junction, Linkshare and Performics. She has one employee. Previously, she had two – one full time and one part time. But earlier this fall, she discovered that she could handle some of the load herself as both of her kids went off to school for the first time.

Fognano had been home-schooling her children because each of them had unique learning issues. Her daughter had a language impairment and Fognano battled the school for years. It now has a program and Haille, who is now 9 years old, can attend classes full time. For the last year a teacher had been coming to the Fognano’s home to help. Her son Austen, now 11, is a very gifted student and there was no advanced placement class for his grade. So, Fognano home-schooled him until the third grade.

THE MOTHERING INSTINCT

“I’m one of those mothers that want things to be perfect for my kids,” she says. “I took care of them when the school wasn’t.”

She likes to take care of people. Fognano’s two employees were both stay-at- home moms that she has never met in person or even talked to on the phone, despite that the one in Portage, Wisconsin, has worked for Fognano for four years and the one in Syracuse, New York, had worked for her for one year.

While she admits it was slightly odd to be paying people to work for her that she’d never met, she says it was a great arrangement. Both of the moms were previously loyal visitors to her site and began sending Fognano deals – sales and coupons – and she decided that she should start paying them for their efforts.

Although Fognano has been an affiliate for almost a decade, 2006 has been a year of changes for her and her business. Sending her kids off to school meant more time to attend conferences, shows and events – something she never had time for previously.

Earlier this year she attended a conference in Dallas for women in business (EWomen Network in June). She referred to the event as “one big Oprah show,” but she heard some great speakers and took home some sage advice. Top of the list was learning to delegate.

While she still admits to having this kind of “do everything yourself” attitude, she realizes that is a vicious cycle since there is always something to be done, which means she would never stop working. She said it was amazing this summer when she felt comfortable enough to delegate responsibilities to her employees and take some time off for the Affiliate Summit in Orlando.

In the past she says she would have been in her hotel room updating her site or running from Disney World back to the hotel to check on things. This time it was a relief to know that someone else could handle all the duties. That freedom meant that she was able to have quality face-to-face contact with her peers – many of whom she’s developed longstanding email or instant message relationships with over the years.

And she’s working less as well, dropping down from about 10 hours per day, which was previously just early in the morning and then again late at night – to about four hours a day. But in that shorter workday she’s focusing on more strategic issues such as branding her site and trying to get media coverage to educate users on how to use online coupons and where to get those savings and promotional codes.

“Many customers really have no idea about online coupons. It’s astounding to me. There is a lot of work to be done to get discounts,” she says, adding that she never shops online unless there is a coupon. “It’s an annoying thing if you know someone is getting a discount and you aren’t. If I see a promotional coupon box and then can’t find a coupon, then I won’t shop there.”

The new schedule is also allowing for many things that have been neglected for years, according to Fognano, such as her daily exercise routine, things she enjoys like sewing and scrapbooking, and nine years of photos in shoe-boxes that need to be organized into albums.

In addition, she’d also like to do some writing about online shopping – maybe for business and consumer magazines. And while her experiences and success story would be good fodder for a how-to book on affiliate marketing, she says that route doesn’t immediately appeal to her.

MEASURING SUCCESS

“There are too many different factors associated with being successful in affiliate marketing. It’s all about being in the right place at the right time,” she says, recalling that when she began there were only a handful of coupon competitors. “You could count them on one hand.”

She claims that most of her visitors are type-in traffic and that she doesn’t get a lot of eyeballs from the search engines. But once people get to your site, you’ve got to give them a reason to come back. Her writing helps in that department.

She already has an email newsletter that she sends out every Thursday to her large base of subscribers. She often writes stories about her husband and kids and things that are going on in her life. These personal stories are not intended to be a marketing trick but a reason for visitors to come back to her site. She thinks getting personal has helped others identify with her on a deeper level and created loyalty.

“It’s just me being me,” she says. “About 70 percent of the time, I try to be funny and mostly I succeed. People are always writing to me to let me know they could really relate to what I was writing about.”

But there are times that she gets some negative comments and feedback on her personal tales, but those are far outweighed by the positive responses she typically receives.

She recalls a story she wrote where she mentioned waking up late one morning and rushing around trying to get the kids ready for school, while her county policeman husband was moving at a snail’s pace. Many people wrote to her saying that she should have never called out her husband in a public forum and “shame on her.” She was shocked at the response.

Regardless, she enjoys the interaction with her customers. “This business is not always about making a buck,” she says. “If I can have something that people look forward to every Thursday, that makes me happy.”

Maybe that’s because she has also far exceeded the goals she originally set for herself when she started out with her doll-house resale site: to make $1,000 a month. Many of her work friends from back then shunned her because she chose the mommy track rather than opting to climb the corporate ladder. Now she makes more money than most of them, although she declined to provide specifics on how much she earns as an affiliate.

“I don’t have to make a specific amount per year. I don’t focus on that. As long as we have our bills paid, then I’m happy with the income the site generates.”

She’s also thrilled to be able to work at home. It’s one of the best things about her job. She says that she’s not exactly the affiliate in her pajamas at the computer, or the affiliate marketer sitting out by the pool, but she’s got a lot of freedom. She can have coffee with a friend whenever she chooses. She can attend a sewing conference. She can have lunch with her husband. She can volunteer at her kids’ schools.

But working at home requires self-discipline. Much of that discipline comes from Fognano’s educational background. She paid her own way through college and graduate school, which took her 12 years since she could only take classes as she could afford them. She used to fly to Vermont for 12 days every six months and the rest of her curriculum was done as independent study. While getting her master’s degree she would drive two hours each way to attend classes. She got straight A’s all through her education because she “couldn’t bear to get a B.”

That discipline, coupled with Fognano’s desire to help people and her love of being a mom, is the driving factor in her success. She also has a strong sense of what’s right for her.

“I could not stick an offer up for a quick buck – like something for a gambling site,” she says. “What if someone got hooked on gaming? I just wouldn’t be able to sleep at night. I make sure to deal with ethical people that are not spammers. I want things to be ethical, honest and up front.”

The bottom line: “I’m just a mom doing this. I thought I’d never be in sales and never in marketing. I’m just a mom who opened a resale shop online hoping to make money and the coupon site is a fluke or should I say, a blessing. I love doing it.”

The title on her business card says it all – Mama in Charge.

The Guerrilla Attitude

The attitude of a guerrilla affiliate toward marketing is dramatically different from that of a non-guerrilla affiliate. More than 90 percent of life is about attitude and an even higher percentage of marketing is all about attitude. It’s one of the first things that your prospects and customers will notice about you. The way they’ll know it is through your marketing efforts. If you don’t do much marketing, people will be unaware of your attitude regardless of how winning it may be. Private attitudes do not equate with profits. You’ve got to go public with your attitude.

Let people sense it through your aggressiveness in the marketing arena. It will be clearly communicated through the visibility granted you by marketing. When it’s time to decide on a purchase, they’ll be drawn to companies with an attitude far more than invisible companies that don’t actively and proudly express theirs.

Your attitude will also be indicated by the professionalism of your marketing materials. If they look shabby, that shabbiness will become part of your attitude. If they inspire confidence, that will express your attitude.

The reach of your marketing also reflects your attitude and so does the frequency. Naturally, your commitment to your program conveys an attitude. Your consistency expresses it as well. Keep switching your media and message, your niche and format, and people will be unclear about your attitude, assuming you’re not even sure of yourself.

Of course, you can’t succeed on attitude alone. Marlboro may not be the best-tasting cigarette in the world, but it certainly has the right attitude. Same for Budweiser compared with other beers. Many product category leaders succeed with attitude more than excellence; attitude more than low price; and attitude more than lavish spending. Every car made can get you from point A to point B, but some do it with a more stylish attitude.

As an affiliate, your attitude must come shining through in all of your marketing. It will come across by what you say, how you say it, where you say it and how frequently you say it. Even the world’s most winning attitude is for naught if it’s not being transmitted. That’s why guerrillas communicate with a big attitude to compensate what they lack in a big budget.

The website of a guerrilla affiliate reflects that affiliate’s attitude in its design, its straightforwardness, its focus on the visitor, its copy and its overall professionalism. There are endless possibilities to convey your attitude with your website and certainly with your blog. That means that there are endless possibilities to get egg on your face. Whatever you do to communicate your precious attitude, do it right or don’t do it at all.

There’s a huge, yawning gap of which you must be aware. It’s the gap between what you think your attitude is and what your prospects and customers think it is. Your job – and it’s not even a tough job – is to close that gap, to manifest your attitude so clearly that prospects and customers think of you the same way you think of yourself.

An attitude that is mandatory if you’re to be a true guerrilla affiliate is outwardness. Inward focus works against you when it comes to marketing. Save that for your analyst’s couch, and shine your light outward- bound when you’re marketing.

The perception that you require is the knowledge that your marketing is not about you. It is not about your business. It is not about your product or your service. I hope you’re clear on that, because if you’re not, you’ll blur the other insights necessary for you to master guerrilla marketing.

There is always a very good chance that what you have to offer will mean a lot to your target audience. And there’s a small but real chance that it will mean a great deal to them right now. Those simple facts ought to mean a lot to you before you plunge headlong into a marketing attack. If you can adapt your mindset to just what your offering can mean to your prospects, you’re thinking properly.

If you’ve got the right attitude about marketing, you’re nearly fixated on providing your customers with precisely what they need. One of the things they do need, as do all members of humanity, is a sense of identity. If you operate from the inside of their minds, you’ll be able to make yourself part of their identity. The fact that they do business with you and have a lasting relationship with you will become part of their identity and it will be very clear to their colleagues and friends.

Since your attitude as a guerrilla affiliate is centered around your customers, other facets of your business will follow suit. Your service will pick up and customers will notice. The people you hire will share your attitude, and again, customers will notice. The way you run your business will never seem stale to them because you’ll be innovativing in ways that deliver customer bliss.

Doing it means you can see the future before it unfolds, giving you an immense competitive advantage. It shows you beyond doubt that the best way to engage in customer-oriented marketing is to continuously innovate and to be the very essence of flexibility. In the past, staying with the tried-andtrue was the way to go. In the future, in which today’s present resides, that’s not the way to go.

A guerrilla affiliate knows that focusing on your customer is the way to go, and that "business as usual" now means "business as unusual" if you’re to be a guerrilla with the right attitude, seeing things from your customers’ point of view, meeting and then exceeding their expectations.

That calls for knowing where you’re headed, what your competitors are doing and what your prospects’ customers are thinking. Then it calls for you to demonstrate the attitude that proves you can see things from their standpoint.

 

JAY CONRAD LEVINSON is the acknowledged father of guerrilla marketing with more than 14 million books sold in his Guerrilla Marketing series, now in 41 languages. His website is gmarketing.com.

Scott Hazard: The Performer

Despite having many talents that often thrust him to the forefront, Hazard is a modest man who typically shuns the spotlight.

For more than three years he’s been an extremely active and vocal member of several online affiliate marketing forums. While many of his closest industry friends often refer to him by one of his message board handles, he prefers not to give away his online identity publicly so that he can continue to voice his strong opinions about unethical practices without fear of repercussions.

But Hazard stresses that he’s not hiding behind the anonymity of the message boards and that he never says anything in those forums that he wouldn’t express face-to-face. Rather, the fear is that if the offending players in the space knew his real name and his websites, they might retaliate by using their technical know-how to attack his sites, which are his livelihood. Other affiliates say they worry about being physically harmed or having someone knock on their front door. He agrees that type of threat is within the realm of possibility.

Still, Hazard dismisses the notion that some message boards can be vicious at times. For him it’s been a wonderful community where he’s been able to develop some extremely close friendships – which are a very important component of doing business for him. Because he works from home – like many other affiliates – he’s somewhat isolated from the typical, everyday office interaction and considers the message boards his water cooler, albeit an online version.

He appreciates all the help and advice he’s often received – and given – as a huge factor in his continuing participation in these forums. The ability to log on and find answers about a merchant he’s promoting or thinking of promoting is priceless. Approaching the posters on these boards with a sense of humility and respect means that forum members will bend over backward to help you, Hazard says.

But it’s not like everyone is about to divulge all their secrets. He likens the amount of information that affiliates are willing to reveal to each other to the Seinfeld episode where two magicians are having dinner. However, in the popular TV show, the magicians spend the entire meal trying to one-up each other, and most affiliates, Hazard notes, are just the opposite – they don’t give out any information, including the most basic stuff – like the names of their websites. He laughs at that idea, calling it a very cool dynamic.

And he’s no different when it comes to disclosing specific information about his business. He operates approximately 30 to 40 websites that are in the retail space and focus primarily on apparel, but he’s hesitant to give out any more details. But when it comes to his latest site – CouponPouch.com – he’s not shy about talking it up.

The site launched in April and is his first venture into coupons. He always thought there was a large opportunity in that area – especially since he’s got some friends that are every coupon-intensive people, many of whom he describes as toting around a tickler file of coupons that weighs two pounds.

In order to spread the word about CouponPouch.com, Hazard is taking a multifaceted approach. There’s lots of local advertising in many parts of the United States. He’s using newspapers in each area to get the word out. He’s doing a lot of online and off-line promotion and focusing on viral advertising. He wants people to talk about his site and he thinks freebies and giveaway goodies (business cards, fridge magnets, hats, etc.) are a great way to do that.

Of course, there’s the Honda Element he drives around the central Florida area with the giant kangaroo on the side that’s hard to miss. He recently had the SUV professionally wrapped to display the CouponPouch.com logo. And if you spot his vehicle parked and stop by to say hello – he’ll give you a free gift. However, don’t try and pull him over on the road for the free gift. He’s a gung-ho marketer, but not at the expense of on-the-road safety.

None of these marketing ideas is random. Hazard says he lies awake at night thinking about these kinds of things. He’s got a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t. And he’s learned that means striving to be independent of any single source of traffic. Although natural traffic is free and he spends money on Yahoo and Google, he stresses that affiliates need to get smart and develop marketing strategies outside of the box.

He may lie awake at night, but he bounces out of bed each morning and can’t wait to get to his computer. Hazard loves his job because it allows him to use his creative side to think about ways to bring items to market. But he can also use his logical side to structure events to bring the creative vision to fruition. He says it is the most fulfilling job he can possibly imaging having – and it’s not about the money. Yes, he admits, we all need money and money is not a bad thing, but for Hazard, it’s the satisfaction of developing an idea and then walking it through to completion that is the real joy.

He loves that, armed only with creativity, personal drive and a computer, he has the ability to compete with multi-million-dollar corporations. “They have a website. I have a website. The playing field is much more level,” Hazard says. “I can’t go to the mall and build a Nordstroms and sell wares, but I can sit at the computer and create a website to sell wares.”

And not everything is a success. If something doesn’t work, he’ll shuck it and move on. He has lots of ideas and spends time cruising through the networks and looking at websites searching for new ideas and things that spark his creativity. He checks many of his new pay-per-click ideas using what he calls the $200 rule. That means he spends a day or two to set up a website or Web pages, sends some PPC advertising to it and when he’s spent $200 he evaluates whether it’s working or not. If not, he just puts it aside and moves on.

He may have an easy time turning off marketing campaigns that aren’t performing, but he admits that it’s not as easy for him to turn off work – especially since he works from a home office. He’s thought about renting an office nearby and trying to do the 9 to 5 thing, but knows that he’ll end up back in front of the computer at home in the evenings anyway, so he’d rather not waste the money.

Hazard has a love/hate relationship with his computer. “The computer is always there,” he laughs. He works about 60 hours a week and says that often he has trouble distinguishing what day it is.

He springs out of bed around 6 a.m. and starts the day off with a big 16-oz. coffee, while he checks his stats from the previous day and scans the Internet for news. A self-admitted Yahoo pool addict, Hazard will usually get in a few games before getting to his real work in the morning. He also plays Yahoo pool in the late evenings when he’s wrapping up for the night.

His No. 1 piece of advice to affiliates is to stay physically active. He says he’s gained weight since becoming an affiliate three years ago and stresses that work-at-home affiliates need to force themselves to exercise and stay active. But at least he’s quit his 20-year smoking habit.

In an effort to kick back a little more, he just bought a fishing boat after not having owned one in eight years. For the avid bass fisherman it’s a wonderful way to relax. So is music. He recently attended a Willie Nelson concert and says it was a wonderful feeling to have a night unplugged, where he just sat back 40 feet from the stage in a small auditorium and drank a couple of Heinekens and listened to two and half hours of Willie.

The youngest of seven kids, Hazard loves music. He plays the drums and sings. He recently moved from belting out tunes from behind the drum kit to center stage where he now fronts The Quarter Mile Band. They play straight-up rock tunes – covers and about a dozen originals, half of which Hazard wrote. After an 18-month hiatus and some bad luck with a string of bass players, the band is now practicing once a week and working toward putting out a CD or getting their material out in MP3 format.

Still, it’s very difficult for him to turn his brain off. The wheels are always turning with ideas and he’s always looking for better ways to do things. He’s been like that as long as he can remember.

One way to improve things was to go to college. At 29 he quit his job selling Hondas near his hometown of Alexandria, La., and enrolled at LSU with the goal of becoming a certified public accountant.

Although he was making a good living selling cars, he hated the business. One of the reasons was that he’d often spend several weeks talking with a potential customer, only to return from a day off of fishing and find that customer had come in and bought a vehicle and that he’d lost that commission to another salesperson. There weren’t any ill feelings; he was just tired of being in commission-only sales and hustling people for a living.

But accounting didn’t suit him either. After just two semesters, Hazard decided that being a CPA wasn’t for him. He spoke with an adviser and took some aptitude tests that showed he had strong skills for becoming an attorney. Instead he decided to pursue a liberal arts degree with three minors – English (in his senior year he was the editor of the LSU newspaper); history; and speech/theater.

Four years later, with a degree in hand, he was ready to move out of the student mode, give up his part-time gig as a weekend disc jockey at a rock station in Alexandria and get back into the world of full-time employment.

So, he moved to Miami to direct at a theater in South Beach for the summer. He starved, had a great time and then went to work for a marketing company in Fort Lauderdale. That company immediately sent him to work on a project in New Orleans for three months. When he returned to south Florida he pitched his firm on an idea for a jobs site. The company passed and Hazard left to start SouthFloridaJobs.com on his own in 1998.

After visiting a friend in central Florida, he made the move there in the spring of 1999 and subsequently sold his company in the fall of that year. “I’m a Southern boy and I have to move north to get back to the South,” he says.

He began doing various freelance Web design projects and then started designing an e-commerce website for a merchant in Daytona Beach. That website competed with affiliates and Hazard says “those affiliates were kicking my butt and eating my lunch.” His relationship with that merchant ended and he was forced to look at affiliate marketing.

He calls that 2003 incident the single best thing that’s ever happened in his life.

Maybe that’s because he surpassed his original income goals. Hazard pays more in taxes now per month than he originally estimated he’d make in a month and now generates between $2 million and $4 million in sales annually. He was also was named as a charter member of CJ’s Performer program in 2005.

“My affiliate endeavors have proven better than my wildest dreams,” he says.

But a big part of those dreams for Hazard also included leaving behind the rat race and having complete and total control over everything in his business. However, there’s a downside to complete control, according to Hazard, who says that often there is nobody to question your decisions or say no to you, and it’s not uncommon to get tunnel vision.

That’s where friends and forums come in for feedback. And in the end, for Hazard it all comes down to doing the right thing and having good friends.

Savvy affiliates like Hazard often have a choice to make – work extra hard to develop new methods to make money or employ questionable tactics that in the short term will increase revenue. Hazard loathes those that opt for the latter, which he believes is the easy way. He credits his mom and dad with instilling a rock-solid sense of right and wrong in him. He says that at the end of the day, when he’s brushing his teeth and looking in the mirror, he enjoys knowing that what he’s accomplished was good and right.

Plus, he has like-minded friends that will call him on his actions. He gets together with a group of four to six friends in Orlando once a month to talk about the affiliate space. These folks are not direct competitors – there’s an affiliate manager and some other merchant affiliates (but they are all in different verticals). They openly share very sensitive business information.

It’s a relationship based on trust formed over the years, according to Hazard. In the end, he likes being a key piece of what he calls the happy triangle.

“If I did something that helped someone find a shoe and in the process generated a sale and the customer and merchant are happy, then I’m happy,” he says. “If I simply find ways to cheat the merchant and I end up with money and the customer is happy, but not the merchant, then that’s not a happy triangle.”