Affiliate marketing may sound for people who are not familiar with this term like a hobby or some sort of superficial activity that is hard to explain to others anyway. Although affiliate marketing is far from an easy thing, it can surely become a hobby. I talked to a lot of affiliates in the past years and most of them tell me how their work in affiliate marketing is a passion they are doing for pleasure and that also brings them money. As they say –
If you enjoy what you do, you won’t have to work a single day in your entire life.
And to prove this right, I prepared an interview with an affiliate from our network. A passion someone has for an activity or a hobby can be read in his eyes or in the words he or she uses to describe it. And so I decided to drop all his answers here, just as I received them.
Tudor joined our network a little than a year ago and is already amongst the top performing affiliates. Another interesting fact is that he doesn’t work by himself, but together with other affiliate collegues, as passionate about it as himself.
How did you start doing affiliate marketing? How did you get this idea?
I’ve been working in online marketing since highschool (for about 14 years) when, because I needed some pocket money, I started writing SEO optimized articles for several clients that had affiliate content websites or online stores. I didn’t quite understand much from what was happening there, but at one point I ventured to ask one of the older clients to explain to me how it works. In exchange, I wrote to him 20 articles for free.
That is when I understood how affiliate marketing worked. I learned how to develop a website using Dreamweaver and made my first two websites: one for selling World of Warcraft guides and the other for selling elliptical trainers and treadmills. I have managed to sell one trainer in a year, with all the efforts made for that website :). The guide website was going much better and brought me a passive $500 a month from affiliate and AdSense.
Fast forward until present times: in the meantime I co-founded 2 gaming studios in Cluj (Romania) and lost touch with the affiliate world, as all my focus moved on growing the new companies. They had completely different business models with other types of monetization. However, the online and affiliate marketing germ stayed alive and together with a couple of college friends (both super developpers an entrepreneurs) we decided to start the “Heavy Weight Affiliate” project that we run in the 2Performant Network and in other international platforms.
How long have you been an affiliate and what is the strategy you are using?
We have started in Romania only in September 2016. As I said before, my first contact with affiliate marketing was 14 years ago. Our strategy is to promote only offers where we have real competitive advantages: either on the traffic source side where we already have created audiences that fit the promotional offer, or on the advertiser side where we could get useful info or special conditions. For example, with the 10 year gaming industry experience, I have many contacts in the companies that have affiliate offers for games. Based on the already established relationship I can get info about new product launches ahead of the others on the market. This gives us a first-mover advantage in promoting that offer.
What types of promotion do you use? How did you learn them?
We only use paid advertising from different traffic sources for now. We are specialized in Facebook Ads and Google Adwords, but we have experimented with many other traffic source we considered to match the promoted offers.
Do you work by a certain rule?
Yes, the main rule is not to stick our nose in verticals we don’t understand :). For instance, we tried to promote deals from different industries we had nothing to do with, where we didn’t understand well the market, the user behavior or the stimuli that trigger the users’ response and so that didn’t turn quite profitable.
Another rule is that we stop any experiment that brings us a ROI that is lower than 30% after a set of initial optimization actions. Considering the 60+ day time-to-payment of most advertisers, we don’ want to get our budget stuck in projects that can’t bring a better return. The only exception is, of course, if that certain campaign has a big scaling potential.
How much time do you spend of affiliate marketing per day/week?
Together with my collegues, we invest approximately 20 cumulated hours per day on the operation side for traffic sources, research, tool creation, process automation, data analysis and business development. We would like to have more time for it, but all three of us have other companies, personal projects or clients besides the Heavy Weight Affiliate project. The good news is that none of us feel like “working” on the affiliate projects. We are all data freaks, we like to analyze data, to optimize campaigns and discover new offers, tools or traffic sources to experiment with.
What changes did affiliate marketing bring to your life? What is the biggest satisfaction you get from it?
To me it was like a return to the online marketer origins. In the gaming companies I did mostly management and business development work, activities that brought me both personal and professional satisfacyion. But after 10 years of meetings, organizing teams and Skype calls, I was longing to test my marketer skills. The biggest reward is that I have always seen online marketing as a game: every new website or profitable campaign or sold product is a small “Level Up” that motivates me to get to the next project.
What was the biggest success? And what was your biggest challenge?
The fact that we managed to build up a tool infrastructure, research procedures, offer analysis and testing procedures was the biggest challenge and the biggest success. When I (re)started with affiliate marketing I encountered a problem that most affiliates have: information overload. There are so many offers, advertisers, tools, networks, traffic source and promotion types to choose from that you get stuck in some sort of weird “limbo” where you spend most of your time wandering though articles, webinars and podcasts that you no longer have the energy and focus to implement whatever you learn.
How do you choose your advertisers? How do you communicate with them?
I have mentioned above some rules we apply when deciding what offers to promote. Mainly we want to focus on fewer advertisers, that we communicate well with and for whom we can scale up our campaigns. I don’t really recommend other affiliates to choose this working model because some times it’s better to have “many eggs in multiple baskets”. But we see as high value in creating tight business relationships with the advertisers we work with and in understanding their business model and target audience.
I haven’t had many contacts with affiliates on the Romanian market so I am not really quailfied to give advice. However I have noticed that many of them focus a lot on organic traffic and SEO, a field I have worked in for many years. I have given that up little by little because I realized that any business based exclusively on organic traffic is exposed to high risks.
I remember that the Google Panda update in 2011 has depreciated About.com with approximately $200 million overnight and other similar websites, like Hubspot, lost 80% of their traffic. These are extreme case but the truth is that the new Google SERP structure, where the first organic position for “purchase intent” keywords actually means the 5th position, lowers a lot the volume potential and also that position’s value.
What is your advice to advertisers?
A better communication with affiliates :). This is one of the main barrier we have encountered since working on the Romanian market and it has stopped us from starting several campaigns for interesting advertisers. This is just because our promoting strategy is basesd mostly on building up a long term business relationship.
There were exceptions, though: Vegis, Libris, Soproduct, Lensa or Carsi are some advertisers that come to my mind. We had communicated very well with them ( even if we didn’t run campaigns for all of them).
What is your advice to 2Performant? ☺
We had some API or dashboard related technical difficulties that we have pointed out and most of them worked out very promptly. On the advertisers acquisition side we would like to see more balance between the lead generation deals versus pay-per-sale/revshare online stores. We do understand that this also depends on the Romanian market growing up process and on the advertisers’ will to internalize the user final conversion risk.
Otherwise, we were pleasantly surprised by the communication with 2Performant (props to Tiberiu, one of the nicest people I have ever worked with in Romania so far) and I am glad that you look at the platform and at the affiliate manager role as a matchmaker between the affiliates and advertisers and not only as an entity that has to solve problems and put out fires.
This is only one of the stories of people who love what they do and also make an income from their passion. Kudos to them!