Friday, February 13, 2015

Why I Love Affiliate Marketing

It's my turn to tell the world why I love performance marketing, after being challlenged by Kim Rowley.

While one of the most obvious reasons (which I will touch on later) is all the wonderful friends I've made in the industry over the years, I'll start with one that isn't as well known, and a bit more personal.

Back in 2000,  I found myself trapped in a job at Blair that I didn't enjoy, and my life outside of work was being turned upside down.  I was in a very dark place, and I didn't know where my life was headed.  I was doing my best to roll with the punches, but it felt like every morning I'd step out of bed and would soon be hit with another roundhouse.

And then one day, I got a call from Jeff Parnell, Blair's recently hired Director of E-commerce, to come down to his office for a minute.  As I strolled down the stairs, my thoughts were, "What now!?!"  I had no idea how much things were about to change.

Jeff told me that Blair.com was going to have an affiliate program through Dynamic Trade (the predecessor to Performics/GAN) and he wanted me to manage it.  Soon after I told him I'd be happy to, I realized I had virtually no idea what affiliate marketing was!  I moved from Advertising to E-Commerce and dove into learning whatever I could about affiliate marketing.  I've been loving it ever since!

I followed everything I could at ABestWeb, and learned a great deal from the folks there, and their fearless leader, Haiko De Poel.  I attended conferences and met affiliates and other managers.  One of the things that amazed me was how willing other merchants were to discuss their business and offer guidance.  Two of my early mentors were Jamie Birch (he was with Coldwater Creek) and Brook Schaaf (during his tenure at Shoes.com).  I was learning and making friends fast.

I've always been impressed by the ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of so many I've met in affiiate marketing.  At a conference in the early 2000's, I met Zac Johnson (and his dad), a teenager who had more knowledge of performance marketing than I could ever hope to have.  I've watched Jamie and Brook form their own companies.  And I've been along for the ride with Shawn Collins and Missy Ward, after taking part in their first Affiliate Summit and watching it grow to an industry powerhouse over the years!

But in the end, my love of performance marketing is all about the relationships, and friends I've made over the years.  In addition to the folks named above, there are literally hundreds more.  When I have a problem/concern/idea, I know I can call and chat with David, Kim or Karen.  I had the two best contacts a manager could have at GAN with Ashley Gull and Megan Lutz.  My fiance is always a wonderful supporter, and hears me talking about people in the industry so much, that she actually knows who many of the people are when I mention a name.  She even follows some in the industry now, and it's not uncommon for her to say, "Did you see Zac's latest post?"

I like to tell people that I'm the Andy Sipowicz of affiliate marketing.  The cast of characters changes every year while I continue to sit at the same desk.  And while that is one of the similarities, I truly believe there is another.  When NYPD Blue first aired, the Dennis Franz character was abrupt, surly and often times downright mean.  His life was in a downward spiral.  By the time the series ended, Andy Sipowicz still had problems now and again, but he was at peace with himself.

I can identify with that.