This is the second to last live blogging session at #AMDays and I’m excited to hear the thoughts of Super Affiliates Tony Pantano of IMWave (search publisher), Kim Rowley of KIMarketing (super blogger) and Siva Kumar of TheFind.com (shopping engine).
Here is a summary of the topics and take aways of Inside the Mind of a Super Affiliate:
Q: How and why did you get into affiliate marketing?
Kim – To make money. And because I like blogging. Affiliate marketing started as a hobby for me back in 1998, before blogging was even a word.
Siva – We felt that affiliate marketing was the easiest way to build relationships with people. My first large sale as an affiliate made us $30,000.
Tony – I first came from print, and just got good at search. It was easier to make money there so we stuck with it.
Q: What is the first thing you look at when choosing a program?
Tony: “I don’t know how to pick a successful program – so I have to rely on my team. What my team and I do is look at brands that we know. We cover many different demographics that we can target. We look at the brand, we look at the site, we look at the program stats, then we reach out to the affiliate manager to work with them. It’s not like the old days where you check a box in CJ, we try to build relationships with the program managers now right from the beginning.”
Siva: We look for the product first, but many products we like don’t have affiliate programs. WE look for sites / brands that have over 10K clicks per month (if we can). we have crawlers that help us do this.
Kim: If there is a choice between working with an affiliate program that’s listed with a network or in house, and I can earn more with the private program, I would still rather work with the network program because I know my work is going to get tracked and I’m going to get paid on time. I don’t join every program – there are just too many. I am more likely to pick programs from ShareaSale first because I know they are a network that won’t work with parasites that will steel my commissions.
Tony: We like to work with programs that have strong APIs and listed in networks. We also prefer to work with networks. There is also the legal aspect to working with networks that we appreciate that help us evaluate a program.
Siva: We are a platinum affiliate on all the major networks. we’re a top performer, so we don’t really mind, but I would still Whatever network works better with the ECBM is what we prefer to work with. We don’t care so much about the network, its more what our customers want because those are the products we’re prefer to provide on our site.
Q: If there is a merchant listed on two networks, how do you chose which network to work with?
Kim: If you’re on CJ and ShareaDSale, I will go with the one that I can earn a higher commission with. But it’s a case by case basis because there are a lot of factors that go into there including how close your relationship is with your affiliate manager, which OPM is managing the program and so on.
Q: What metrics do you look at to help you chose what to join?
Kim: If it’s a $0 EPC or has a high reversal rate I won’t join
Tony: $0 EPC certainly is not great, and new programs as well, however EPC doesn’t always tell the whole story and there is sometimes still a great opportunity with even these.
Siva: We don’t take network metrics to heart. We run our own metrics and tracking to determine the worth and value of each program. Going forward though giving the average sale of the program would be very helpful for the networks to start reporting publicly.
Q: How important is cookie life and attribution?
Kim: Todd Crawford had me sold on his fingerprint tracking and proper attribution. I”m going to go back and look into that to ensure I’m getting credited for my sales.
Tony: I could spend an hour talking about attribution 🙂 I will say this: attribution is not going to go away in this industry. If 6 people touch the buyer and the first 5 didn’t close the business, in my opinion the first 5 don’t deserve the sale because they couldn’t close it. It’s coming. The conversation is happening. We need to be prepared so we can have an intelligent conversation about it because it’s important.
Q: If we were to split up our rev share model and start paying more to affiliates for new customers and less for return customers, what would you recommend in that regard?
Kim: Why don’t you offer a bounty / bonus for the new sale instead of less for return ones?
Tony: I don’t know who your customers are, so if I do my job right, I should get credit. If the customer is on the web searching for products (not brand specific), I contend they are not loyal to you. Therefore if they found a better deal somewhere else and I brought that customer back to you, that’s not worth less, that’s worth more. So those are the kinds of considerations to keep in mind.
Tony: If I want to wear a pair of purple uggs (Zappos.com asked a question) I’m going to do a search for that online. If I can save $1, I will probably leave you to go to save that $1. So if I can bring them back to you, that’s worth just as much
Kim: I don’t like that you have 6pm.com, which is your clearance site (Zappos.com question again) – and that your clearance site doesn’t have any affiliate tracking on it.
Q: (From Plentyoffish.com) should I offer you more money or spend my time building better tools for you.
Siva: I’ll take the cash. We can build our own tools. For affiliates we’ll always take the cash.
Tony: Because we all have different marketing styles, it’s going to be a huge challenge for you to create tools that appeals to ALL of your super affiliates (or potential super affiliates). We don’t work with just big guys. We can have little guys where we are their #1
Kim: Yes, I’ll take more money (smiling sweetly:)
Side note from moderator: Affiliate managers stand up – now sit down if you have spoken to your top 10 affiliates by phone this year (most affiliate managers stayed standing, including the manager for Zappos.com). This is a common issue so be sure to get on the phone and speak with your best affiliates.
Kim: I hate talking on the phone. My voice mail says email me. I have a folder for every network. If I want something I’ll search for it. I have 40,000 emails in my CJ folder alone. Use my contact form and it will get to me and I will get back to you if I want to work with you. But make it compelling and get to the point.
Siva: Phone call or email are fine. You can easily find us everywhere. We’d love to talk with you.
Tony: It’s hard to reach out. We are always at conferences. The easiest way is to make the initial contact by email and then if ‘d like to we can schedule a quick phone call.
Q: A couple of your up there are multi person company. Is there anything that merchants can do to help you with your branding, since an important part of being an affiliate now is branding?
Siva: The quality of the data feed that you provide us is extremely helpful – have great images, don’t show products that are out of stock, make sure prices are updated. By having a strong data feed helps improve both ours and the merchant branding.
Kim: I thought of this from a co-branding perspective. I work with a merchant that tweets out my links and offers co-branded offers. It helps.
Q: Do you actually use affiliate network review sites to chose affiliate networks?
Tony: No, we don’t. We want to work with people, not programs. I want to work with good managers who are efficient and effective, and reading on a network review site doesn’t give me that information. That’s the biggest key for me. That relationship.
Kim: I’ll google a merchant name to see what network they are using
Siva: Yes, finding merchants with affiliate programs is helpful, so we want to know that information.
Tony: There is no exclusivity in this business, but we will work with programs that are barely break even, just because we know the affiliate managers and they are great people and are working hard to make it better. In our space we view very little overlap between programs. If we can find a way to work with more than one program we will. Otherwise we’ll take the one that produces the best results.
Q: What one bit of advice would you give these folks?
Siva: Look beyond the traditional internet and look at mobile and how affiliates can work with social commerce. Look at people in those spaces and consider attribution for these channels as well. Be open to suggestions and new ideas. Follow up. Be one of the early companies to work in that space.
Kim: When you’re setting up all your links, make sure you have a link to our homepage (text and banner) there are so many companies that miss this.
Tony: Sell the value of your program internally. You can implement the strategy someone else decides or you can be a leader in growing your program.