Two weeks ago I teamed up with David Ford from PPVPlaybook.com to discuss best practices for developing a good, working relationship with your affiliate manager, traits of successful affiliates vs. those who are not and what’s hot lately on the campaign front. I’ve included a link to the webinar below in addition to the original script I had drafted for the interview. I believe you have to be a member of the PPVPlaybook in order to actually tune in and listen to the audio version. Enjoy!
David Ford, PPVPlaybook.com:
Brief intro, who you are, what you do, etc.
Well, for those who don’t know me…My name is Ryan Hurry and I’m an affiliate manager at Convert2Media. I’ve been with C2M for approx. 18 months now and truly enjoy my gig here, definitely have a passion for Affiliate Marketing and Marketing in general. Affiliate Management was never my dream job. In fact, I went to school for a career in interactive media and spent nearly nine years working in all facets of interactive (and non-interactive, i.e., print design) design but primarily focused on the design, programming and animation of Rich Media websites aka Flash. In 2008 I started dabbling around with affiliate marketing along side Steve Howe and Mike Kerry who were long time friends of mine from high school. Steve went on to be one of the founding partners of C2M and later offered me a position with the company as an Affiliate Manager. At the time I felt the need for a change and took a giant leap of faith to leave my ‘career’ and dream job as a graphic designer behind and start afresh as an AM with C2M. The rest is history!
What do you see affiliates focusing on right now…what’s hot?
I’d have to say Biz Opps/Work from Home offers simply b/c this has been our top performing and most consistent vertical since day one. So if you’re looking to build longevity I’d definitely say Biz Opps. Dating, Skin Care, Credit, and Coupons are also great verticals to be in right now.
I say Biz Ops/Work From Home because people are always looking for opportunities to work from home, be their own boss and/or make some extra money on the side. Dating because people are always looking for ‘love’ (or simply companionship or to meet new people) and online dating is becoming more popular everyday and social accepted so to speak, hell, my Mom met her match online just a few years ago and they’ve been married since (she actually signed up using my affiliate link! JK). Moreover, online dating is great for shy people or anyone who has yet to ‘come out of the closet’ or just have a fetish or secret they aren’t comfortable going public with and online dating provides an opportunity for them to fulfill their desires from the privacy of their home. Credit because so many people don’t have a clue where to go to get their scores and also because now a days you need a good score before you can even consider buying a new car, boat, motorcycle, house or financing a diamond ring for that new special someone they meet off Easy Date a month back. Coupons simply for the fact that there is always going to be a market for saving money and lately I’ve noticed a spike in national press around coupons and saving money around the holidays and in our current economic state. I remember reading once that coupon clipping is one of the traits of the rich. So everybody likes to save money, from the poor to the rich there’s a market for coupons.
Penny Auctions are also hot right now plus anything niche focused like Tara Medium, a psychic lead gen offer we’ve got on private due to cap constraints but if you have good volume for this hit me up or get with your AM and we’ll see what we can do. For Penny Auctions, XBids and Wavee are amongst the top performing pages out there compared to Bidrivals for example, which has never performed well for us.
What are some traits of successful affiliates you work with? What are some traits of affiliates who aren’t successful or still struggling?
This isn’t true for everyone but I’d have say that my top affiliates have all made it in this biz by focusing on one thing at a time and they’ve really wrapped their head around and it cracked the code so to speak. Only they will they move on to test new channels. Again, it isn’t true for everyone and if you’re losing thousands of dollars trying to make one traffic source work and you just can’t cut in, accept it and move on. But don’t throw the towel in too soon either, as the majority of my top guys have lost money before making money. Even when losing money, you aren’t losing entirely as you should be taking this data, analyzing it and learning from your mistakes and what doesn’t work and moving on, hopefully never to make the same mistake twice.
The one trait I have noticed with successful affiliates is their relentless ability to stay focused, not get discouraged and learn from their own mistakes. Instead of spending countless hours reading affiliate blogs, forums and articles on what to do and what not to do they just buckle down and do it. Half the time, admittedly, they didn’t even know what they were doing in the beginning. They just did it. As a result they learned (quickly) what not to do, corrected the problem and moved on usually never to make the same mistake again.
I’d say 80% of our top affiliates are focused on one or two methods for driving traffic and maybe three or four verticals max at any given time and use the same methods for driving traffic they have since day one. It’s all about honing in on a specific method of driving traffic to your pages and really mastering that traffic source. It’s only then, in my opinion that you can start to branch out and dabble with new traffic sources, as you will have a much better understanding of the core components.
On the flip side, struggling or unsuccessful affiliates have a tendency to jump around from one traffic sources to the next and never focus on any one vertical either, bouncing around from offer to offer and have a laundry list of networks they ‘work’ with. Unsuccessful affiliates seem to be very impatient and don’t take the time that is truly required to master even one traffic sources, be it PPV or Social Marketing, they just don’t stick to with it long enough to really get a handle on it and make it work. The minute they lose money, they jump ship. They’re undisciplined. My most successful guys tend to be very focused and very disciplined and patient. Which also takes quite a bit of guts, as it requires time, money and the confidence in yourself to believe that you will be successful and that you can make it work, even if/when suffering a loss in the beginning stages. Most guys don’t have the guts to go out there and test, they’re always hesitant and unconfident, unsure of themselves or a specific method or whatever it might be that stops them from pulling the trigger. Unsuccessful affiliates, and I see it time and time again and I can spot ‘em a mile away now, usually ask a ton of questions and rarely ever setup a single campaign. They never test anything and you have to test in order to get anywhere in the business. So if you’re reading this now and you’re reluctant about testing and/or terrified about losing money, you’ve just got to stop running racquets with yourself and get out there and setup some campaigns start testing. Otherwise, you’ll never get off the ground and you just not going to be successful.
Do your successful affiliates usually focus on one niche and really scale it, or run a ton of different campaigns?
One niche, maybe two or three and scale. Of course I know some affiliates who run a myriad of campaigns across the board but the most successful, are honestly the ones who focus on just one or two verticals or niche offers at any given time and focusing on owning a piece of the market/traffic source or finding a micro-niche and owning it and then finding ways to scale their campaigns.
What would you say is the best way to develop a good relationship with your affiliate manager?
For me, it really depends. I feel the best way for affiliates (new affiliates) to establish a good relationship is simply to stay in touch with their AM’s from day one. If a network is going to approve you and give you a shot, especially a smaller, boutique network like ourselves, and you show no interest in communicating your needs, goals, etc. with us (or your AM) then we’ll likely never develop a good working relationship. I would simply suggest being in communication with your AM once or twice a week as any more could be overkill and potentially counter productive. I believe this is more applicable for new affiliates compared to seasoned affiliates who may already know what they want and what they need and how to get it (from our system). For these guys, it’s more acceptable to speak less frequently as they’re hands off and don’t require as much support as a new affiliate may need.
If you get to the point where you’re running a ton of volume it’s good to check in every other day or even daily sometimes to make sure there’s nothing new available that could be split tested or even to request offers we may not have available or just to make sure there are no known issues with a specific campaign.
Good communication is key. As an affiliate manager, especially in a smaller boutique network setting like C2M, it can be quite challenging for us to keep open lines of communication with every single affiliate. So while I’d love to pop in and touch base with every affiliate each and every day or every other day even, it just isn’t realistic. Plus, from an affiliates standpoint, I can only imagine how annoying it would be if I was pinging you every single day asking, “Where’s your traffic?”, “Are you going to run anything?”, “I’ve got a new hot offer!”, etc.. So unless I have some really important information, insights or advice or I pick up an offer I know you want or had requested, I’m usually not going to reach out on a regular basis, in the beginning. In turn, it’s essentially the responsibility of the affiliate to develop the relationship here, which gives me (as an AM) more inclination to reciprocate and reach out to you.
Final thoughts. Keep the conversation focused, straight to the point and on a somewhat professional level, at least until you build a better and more open understanding of one another. Every now and then it’s cool to shoot the shit but for the most part, especially from my standpoint, let’s keep the chitchat to a minimum and focus on making money. Usually the best form of communication (for me) is on AIM, Skype or email. But never shy away from a good old fashioned phone call, which often times can open up things that may otherwise have been missed via email or an AIM conversation.
How and when to ask for pay bumps?
There’s no right or wrong answer here, but if you’re new and we have no history together, I wouldn’t recommend asking for a bump right out the gates as there’s no incentive for me to bump your payout on an offer and give you more than the next guy and take a slimmer margin when I have no clue of the volume your capable of sending and/or the quality of leads you can deliver. Pay bumps usually come with either good quality or shear volume but usually a combination of the two.
On the flip side, if you are a new affiliate with us and you’re looking to run some campaigns but need an immediate pay bump to split test based on your rates from another network, show me a little evidence that you’ve ran the offer, for how long and your current rate and usually I have no problem matching it so you can test. Otherwise, let’s get some traffic running and then discuss pay bumps based on volume and quality.
For me, I really only need a few days worth of traffic (depending on the offer) and confirmation from advertiser on your quality before I’m comfortable enough and willing to give you a bump. But we’re very fair and competitive about giving pay bumps here at C2M to be honest and pretty flexible as well.
Final thoughts. Don’t be shy about it (asking for a pay bump). If you need a bump on something to help you maintain or scale your campaigns then just ask, no need to beat around the bush here.
What all can your affiliate manager do for you, and how can the affiliate make the AM’s job easier?
At C2M, I like to believe we can do quite a bit and usually go above and beyond standard requests such as getting epc data, top offers, etc. Usually, I can get my guys/gals anything from royalty free photos, images, art, etc. to opening doors for a referral to a good copy writing, designer or programmer to analytic data, passes to Affiliate Summit (when available), better payment terms and/or payouts, and even specific offers that you’re looking for that no other networks have. Really, it’s just a matter of asking for it. If I can do it, I will and if not I’ll tell you I can’t. No harm in asking. Just don’t asking me to design your landing pages for you, that is one thing I can not do.
How can affiliates make the AM’s job easier?
A biggie for me would be in doing good research to really hone in on the right demographics for any given offer prior to running it. Doing good research is critical and honing in on the right demographic, while often times cumbersome and tedious, will help ensure your quality is good right from the start, this is especially true in Dating and Gaming. Demographic targeting is something I get asked about daily and ultimately just not something I have the time to dive into for each guy and while I always do my best to point guys in the right direction, the bulk of the work is on their end.
Take the post I did on finding demographics to promote the online MMO game Shaiya (http://www.convert2media.com/blog/2010/11/19/tips-to-promote-mmorpg-games-shaiya/), that took about 30 minutes to an hour to compile and I only scratched the surface on targeting and campaign setup and that was for just one game! I would hope affiliates would take that and run with it, honing in even further and finding more channels and/or targets to seek out. So doing research on your own would be very helpful and highly recommended, regardless of what you’re looking to test.
This is especially true in Gaming, Dating and Submits where advertisers are so picky about quality. Good quality comes from good research. I’ve never known anyone to deliver good quality just by running off and setting up a campaign without targeting in place. If we can all work together to deliver the best quality leads possible for the advertiser everyone will be happier at the end of the day. Of course, this also requires better education on our part (as the network and as affiliate mangers), to get as much info upfront from our advertisers for any given offer. Something we’ve been doing a much better job of lately if I don’t say so myself!
What is your advice for struggling affiliates?
Don’t give up, keep grinding and keep testing. It’s all about testing and if you’re not testing every little element on your ads and/or landing pages then you’re leaving money on the table.
Don’t get lazy here, there are some great tools out there such as Visual Website Optimizer (http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/) and there are similar tools that are free such as Google’s Website Optimizer which make A/B testing quite simple. Here’s an in-depth article regarding the statistical significance and pitfalls of A/B Testing http://www.cennydd.co.uk/2009/statistical-significance-other-ab-test-pitfalls/. Here’s a free PHP Script for A/B split testing your landing pages from The Quiet Affiliate, http://www.quietaffiliate.com/source-code-ab-split-testing-for-your-landing-page.
Combine that with CPVLab.com and testing should never be an issue or something that’s considered tedious or labor intensive.
Final thoughts. If your a struggling affiliate and find yourself jumping around from one thing to the next pick one traffic source like PPV, focus on mastering it and don’t give up on it in the process. Take any/all data you collect and learn from it and get better. There’s no doubt it’s possible to make money in this business but it isn’t going to happen over night and requires a lot of hard work, patience and guts.