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.”