Affiliate Summit West Review

Posted by Justin Rondeau | Posted in Affiliate marketing, Conferences, Facebook | Posted on Jan 12, 2012

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Affiliate Summit is a Great Show for Making Connections & Polishing Your Marketing Skills

Company logo

This was my third time attending the Affiliate Summit and my second time speaking at the conference. Every time I go to this particular conference I am astounded by the enthusiasm and knowledge of the staff and the attendees. There were a lot of great sessions focused around Social Media tactics, List Building techniques, site development and monetization strategies. If the goal of this conference is to educate and connect online marketers and build successful relationships among networks, vendors and affiliates, then Affiliate Summit hits the nail right on the head.

Being a speaker at a conference makes you view the whole experience a little differently. Normally I have time to go to all of the sessions and schedule regular meetings with affiliates and other possible partners. Instead my Sunday was spent preparing for a presentation that would not only be viewed live by people in the audience but recorded for many of the 5,000 plus pass holders to view at their leisure. Needless to say I missed some great sessions on Day 1, to prepare for my own.

Even though this wasn’t my first time speaking at the Affiliate Summit, it was my first time having a solo break out at this conference. If you missed my session here is  a recap of the points covered in my presentation Community, Conversation, Conversion – Social Tips You need:

Social Media is a Huge Part of an Online Consumer’s Life

Facebook accounts for 17% of the time spent online in the United States. That is a truly staggering number, and what is more impressive about that number is the rate by which it increased in the past 2 years. From Q3 of 2009 to Q3 of 2011 the time spent on Facebook in the United States increased by more than 4x.

On top of the time spent online in the US, a survey by Forbes found that 86% of online consumers in the United States and 79% of consumers in Europe have adopted Social Media into their daily habits.

Facebook is a Social Juggernaut

This is quick and to the point: Facebook amounts for 95% of all social media activity. When you are deciding which social media network to use in your social marketing efforts, Facebook is a no brainer.

The Wall is the Worst Landing Tab Ever

Why would you want to send new visitors to your wall? It is messy and in some cases filled with support issues and complaints. The wall has no call to action and is really going to cause more confusion than it is worth. In one of the worst examples I have seen, I landed on the wall of a page that didn’t even allow users to post content! Social media is not simply broadcasting, it is interactive, so two strikes for this page because I landed on their wall and then couldn’t even interact with the brand.

You need a default landing page that is like-gated. A like-gated page will drastically increase your micro conversions, and by utilizing lead generation forms on the page that is viewed post like you can begin to turn ‘likes’ into marketable leads.

Design is Critical on Facebook

You need to have a good looking default landing tab on your Facebook page. If you are routing traffic from your website or through paid ads, you do not want to waste that user’s time (and in some cases your money). Design a Facebook tab with a clear call to action, one that both welcomes, informs and mobilizes.

Post Different Types of Content to Increase EdgeRank

Most people don’t know what the EdgeRank is, but it is the algorithm that dictates what shows up in your fans’ news feed. Different content holds different weight, and posting content of different weight helps increase your EdgeRank. The algorithm focuses on content type, affinity with the reader and how long the post has been visible.

I’m planning to make a video of my presentation with the slides on our website soon, if I were to post them to SlideShare you wouldn’t see all of the content.

If you attended ASW12 tell me about your favorite presentation!

New Year’s Marketing Resolutions

Posted by Justin Rondeau | Posted in Advice, Affiliate marketing, Small Business, Social Media | Posted on Dec 27, 2011

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How will you market in 2012?

Don't be like Calvin, marketing ALWAYS requires change

As 2011 comes to a close, we all have one eye looking toward 2012 and the other eye looking at 2011’s past accomplishments. In summary, 2011 really was the year for social marketing. Companies large and small were enamored with the different ways to reach their customers. Whether it is through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Foursquare, and all the other great social media applications.

One major change occurred in 2011 that will resonate through 2012, the necessity for social metrics that calculate a genuine ROI/ROE of Social Media. Many consultant have built their companies off of key words like ‘Community Building’ or ‘Customer Evangelism’, now these consultations may be hard pressed for work if they can’t turn those terms into dollars and cents.

With all of the focus on social media marketing this year, I think it was easy to forget about all of our other marketing outlets. For instance, affiliate marketing can be very profitable for both small and large businesses. Affiliate marketing is easy to track and it is much easier to calculate an affiliate marketing ROI. Email marketing is another easily track-able marketing tactic that during all of the social chatter has been under fire. Email marketing may not give you the same return on the dollar as it used to, but it is still a great way to bring in revenue at a low cost.

Here are my New Years Marketing Resolutions – Please Share yours in the comments!

1. Design a Closed Loop Social Plan

This is necessary for 2012, I would suggest that anyone who uses social media should have a clear and concise way to calculate the return. Rather than blindly saying ‘If you are asking what the ROI of social media is, you don’t get social media’ begin to figure out what these ‘product evangelists’ are worth to your company.

Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely love social media (as you can tell that is 80% of this blog’s topic). I could be on Facebook, Twitter and the lies all day if I could, but that will not directly increase my monthly sales. Social media is a top funnel activity, the more you increase your social reach, the more people you can bring into your sales funnel. However, if you are only focused on top funnel activity, you will never convert that nurturing prospect.

2. Increase our Affiliate Program

This year we saw an increase of affiliate sales of almost 600%. This is an astounding number, and other than the commissions we pay out to our affiliates and the nominal fee we pay to Shareasale for using their service, we are making some serious cash. Affiliate programs are great for small and large businesses, but if you are a small business that has digital products, an affiliate program is crucial.

3. Clean and Re-segment our Marketable Contacts List

I have said this a lot lately, ‘The power is in the list’. I don’t think anyone could/would EVER contest this statement. Though there are different methods for compiling a list, the simple fact remains that if you have no one to market to you have no one to sell to. Major strides in inbound marketing this year have shown some great ways to compile a list of qualified marketable leads, and have really helped us in our marketing efforts. My resolution for 2012 is to look at our current list, remove the dead emails and then make sure everyone is where they need to be, i.e., I don’t want to market Social Page Builder Free Trial to a Social Page Build Paid user.

This is a huge task, as any company with a sizable list goes and it may be disappointing to get rid of a few thousand names on your email list. However, it is always quality over quantity. Every email you send costs you money, so why continue to send emails that continuously bounce or are left unopened?

4. Guest Blog more

This year I spent a lot of time blogging here and have written a few articles on sites like 12most. For 2012 I want to feature more articles on some top blogs. This is a great practice for SEO, company branding and personal branding. If you are looking for some quality back links and some more site traffic (and who isn’t) then guest blogging should definitely be on your ‘to do’ list.

5. Create more Videos (Both Instructional/Promotional)

Similar to my 4th resolution this fits into the ‘Content’ camp. As an inbound marketing advocate, it shouldn’t be a shock that I am very interested in content marketing. Videos are a great type of content, and during Google’s Panda update sites with a large video cache were greatly rewarded. On top of saving people from reading instructions or promotional material, videos are extremely shareable.

So those are my 5 marketing resolutions for 2012, what are yours?

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Affiliate Programs, You Need One!

Posted by Justin Rondeau | Posted in Advice, Affiliate marketing | Posted on Nov 29, 2011

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Top 4 Reasons You Need an Affiliate Program

To anyone who follows this blog, it is no surprise that I am very enthusiastic when it comes to affiliate marketing. I have been doing the affiliate management here for over a year now and as our program grows my affinity toward affiliate marketing continues to grow as well. I was recently published in Feedfront magazine spelling out how our Affiliate sales increased by 400% in nearly 6 months after attending the Affiliate Summit.

Prior to attending the summit, our affiliate program was in shambles. We didn’t have the rationale to spend time and resources on affiliates because we hadn’t yet seen a sufficient ROI. After learning what affiliates were looking for during the sessions at Affiliate Summit,we were able to craft a program that has been growing ever since its creation.

If you are a small company, especially if you are a small digital company, it is crazy not to have a defined affiliate program. Here are my top 3 reasons why you need to establish an affiliate program today:

1. Increase Sales/Leads

This is an obvious advantage to implementing an affiliate program. When you recruit some affiliates with high traffic websites, you are piggy backing off of their previous success. There are all sorts of different affiliates that can promote your product in different ways. Obviously you want these affiliates to be in either directly in your space or in a tangential one.

I understand some people may be skeptical about these sales, especially since the affiliate will be getting a cut of that sale. My response to anyone who points this out is this:

‘Would you rather make 80% of $150 (you can insert the price of any product you sell here) or 100% of $0’

That normally opens up their eyes a little bit.

2. Increase Your Company’s Reach

Affiliate marketing also helps with building buzz around your brand and giving you access to customers who were just out of your reach. The best type of affiliates for not only increasing reach but building buzz around your brand are niche bloggers. These people already have a reader base who trust their opinions, if they talk highly of your product or do a review of it, your brand will begin to gather some social proof.

Recently I have been seeing some crossover between social media and affiliates marketing. Again, I have seen this more in the niche blogging field, but affiliates who utilize the different media outlets have a much better reach. These affiliates will connect you with more qualified leads that will ultimately convert.

3. Save Money on a Sales Force

A personal sales force is expensive! If you are a growing business and don’t have the money for several new hires, an affiliate program is a must have. Other than merchant fees by some of the larger Affiliate Networks, your cost to acquire an active sales force is the time spent on reviewing and creating marketing materials for your affiliates. If you are a growing company I would highly recommend checking out Shareasale, they are a great affiliate network that has been integral in the success of our affiliate program. Also, if you see a Shareasale ad on Facebook, click it, the landing page gives a discount that waives the set up fee (saving you $500).

4. Save Time on Acquiring a Sales Force

Rather than spending hours reviewing resumes, interviewing and deciding to hire a new sales associate, you can decide on an affiliate pretty quickly. When I am approving my affiliates, I look at their site rank, both Google Page Rank and Alexa ranking, if their site is not getting enough traffic or is of low quality I decline the affiliate. I can review an affiliate in a few minutes and then move on to the next prospect.

On the Shareasale network, it lets you know the website of the affiliate and whether the affiliate is a ‘Full or Limited’ affiliate. A full affiliate means they have made at least one sale on the Shareasale network. Obviously these affiliates are more desirable, since they have a proven (albeit possibly shallow) record for sales.

Remember: Affiliates won’t just come to you, you need to have an attractive program to start with (especially if you don’t have a long affiliate track record). Reward your early affiliates with special deals as a ‘Thank you’ for joining your program at its inception.

Granted there is a lot of work to do prior to launching your affiliate program. You have to set your commission structure, decide which networks you want to be a part of, decide whether you want to hire an Outsourced Program Manager (OPM) or do your work in house, design content for your affiliates, define your PPC guidelines and recruit. Though the process may seem daunting, don’t let it intimidate you, an affiliate program is necessary to increase your revenue at a relatively low investment of capital.

If there is one piece of advice I can give you with your new affiliate program it is this:

Affiliate marketing is about relationships, build a strong rapport with your affiliates and they will want to work with you.

Do you currently have an affiliate program? If so, what networks are you on?

Affiliate Marketing Works in B2B

Posted by Justin Rondeau | Posted in Affiliate marketing | Posted on Nov 04, 2011

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How Affiliate Summit Improved our Sales

I was featured in this month’s FeedFront magazine. FeedFront magazine is a free magazine published by Affiliate Summit. The publication offers some of the latest tips and advice in affiliate marketing. Below is my entire article for the October 2011 issue of FeedFront:

I remember just nine months ago when our affiliate program was in shambles.

Being a small business in the B2B space, it is very difficult to create a thriving affiliate program. Products in the B2B space generally have higher price points and longer sales cycles, which keeps prospective affiliates at bay; and to be absolutely frank we had no idea what we were doing.

Keeping this in mind, my boss asked me to find a way to ramp up our affiliate program. This is when he decided to send me to Affiliate Summit West 2011 in Las Vegas.

As a young professional going on his first business trip to Sin City, there was obviously some worry that all of Las Vegas’ glitz and glamour would hinder information retention. This couldn’t have been any further from the truth.

I filled my schedule with relevant sessions to increase my knowledge as a merchant. I wanted to learn how affiliates thought, what they liked, what they hated and how I could make their job easier.

The most important session I attended while I was out at Affiliate Summit West was “Inside the Minds of Affiliates”. The panel gave great advice and gave me my most important tip to date, affiliate marketing is about relationships.

Affiliates are taking the time to build sites and promote your product, make their job easier with an open line of communication, relevant data on pricing and conversion rates and plenty of tools to help them along the way.

I was new to the industry when I flew into Las Vegas, but felt like a seasoned expert on the plane ride home. I started creating banners, including affiliate links directly in my emails for easy cut and paste, sending out monthly newsletters after the first week of each month, etc. I became the ambassador my affiliates deserved.

In addition to all of the information I gathered, I also made great connections with some of my program’s most successful affiliates and identified the right affiliate network for a small company who is cultivating an affiliate program.

The growth of our affiliate program can be attributed to two things:

1) Affiliate Summit
2) The Small Business Niche

You will often hear my CEO Jim Kinlan say, “The great thing about marketing to small businesses (SMBs) is that there are millions of them, and the bad thing about marketing to SMBs is that there are millions of them”.

There is an incredible amount of opportunity to market towards SMBs and to successfully convert them. SMBs have far less red tape when it comes to buying decisions. This is the strength of SMBs; they are agile and are thus easier to convert.

Thanks to our niche of B2SMB (Business to Small Business) and the knowledge imparted by the Affiliate Summit, we increased our affiliate sales from last year by 400%; in less than 8 months across 2 affiliate networks.

Thanks Affiliate Summit!

Want to read the whole issue? Download it here. Also, don’t forget to sign up for Affiliate Summit West. I will be giving a talk on optimizing your social campaigns to increase leads and revenue through community and collaboration.

It’s Conference Season

Posted by Justin Rondeau | Posted in Affiliate marketing, Conferences, Opinion, Social Media | Posted on Sep 02, 2011

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Three Conferences You Cannot Miss

If it is one thing that I love about the digital marketing industry it is the wealth of knowledge that is available at my fingertips at any point in time.  However, in this digital age I think we are forgetting that all of this social networking is not a sufficient replacement for good old fashioned networking.  Social media is great for keeping the conversation going, but there is nothing better than meeting IRL (in real life). The three conferences below are great if you are in the digital space and networking at these conferences is fun and effective.

Conversion Conference

This two day conference brings together some of the top minds in the eMetrics field. We are all told that we need to ‘test, test, test’, but prior to testing you need to know which metrics to keep an eye on.  The conversion conference will help you get passed all of the vanity metrics and teach you how to design a campaign that will increase conversions and bring your company more money.

Getting testing right is a tough process, you want to pay attention to the small things but you don’t want to miss the big picture. Let the Conversion Conference help you optimize your landing pages and websites! In two days you will learn more than you ever thought you could about site optimization, keywords and analytics. The Conversion Conference has two days of break out sessions and plenty of networking opportunities and Tim Ash never disappoints with his Conversion Bash.  Need to convince your boss to send you? Send him/her this way!

I will also be speaking at the Conversion Conference this year in a break out session.  I will be covering Social Media and how to develop a strategy that from Like (a micro conversion) to sale (the ultimate conversion).

Socialize West

Like Social Media but is it still a bit of a foreign concept? Then you should head to Socialize West. Some of the top minds in social media marketing today will be a part of panels and break out sessions to give you the tips and the know how for your social media campaign.

Topics covered this year include:

  • Social Crisis management
  • Social Success Strategies
  • Mobile Localization
  • Measuring Social Advertising effectiveness
  • Targeting a Facebook ROI
  • and MUCH MUCH more

During this two day conference you will come away with new connections and and incredible grasp on how to make your company social.  I will be moderating a Panel on the Final day discussing ‘Facebook Monetization Approaches’

You do NOT want to miss this event.

Affiliate Summit West

What do you get when you combine top notch informative sessions, 3 days of networks, and a celebration of a booking industry? You get the Affilaite Summit.

The Affiliate Summit happens twice a year, in the West and in the East. Affiliate Summit West will be at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas in January.  Over the course of three days you will learn how to devise an incredible affiliate strategy for your company and recruit new affiliates for your programs. Want to outsource your affiliate efforts? There are plenty of full service agencies who are ready and willing to jump start your affiliate program.

This is truly a marathon of a conference, by the end of it you will have drowned in business cards and run out of space in your brain for new information.  However, thanks to the Affiliate Summit we have launched a successful affiliate program in less than a year because of the new connections and tips.  If you are on the fence about going to the next summit, follow Nike’s advice and ‘Just do it’.

Affiliate Summit in Review

Posted by Justin Rondeau | Posted in Affiliate marketing, Conferences, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn, Social Media, Twitter | Posted on Aug 24, 2011

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Affiliate Summit Review – Social Media & Affiliate Tips

You all may have noticed that our blog activity has been lacking so far this week.  The reason I haven’t had time to tell you all about the latest and greatest going on in the social and email world is because I spent the last three days in New York City at the Affiliate Summit.  This conference is an amazing way to jump start your affiliate program, you will meet some industry leaders and get tip top advice in topics like Social Media, SEO, and Affiliate Marketing Management.

I was fortunate enough to speak at an expert roundtable during this summit, and I had an amazingly attentive crowd who genuinely wanted to learn how to leverage social for their marketing efforts.  Anyone who attended my session  I would love to hear what you thought of it in the comments section!

If you have never attended an Affiliate Summit, I would highly suggest going. If your company has not yet developed an affiliate program or has not taken it seriously, the Affiliate Summit will give you the knowledge and the tools to develop an amazing affiliate program. For everyone that didn’t get the chance to attend this years Affiliate Summit East, here are the top 5 tips I learned at affiliate summit

1. Twitter is Your Friend

Twitter is an amazing way to start finding new leads, partnership opportunities, and back links. During the keynote on Monday morning, Will Reynolds from SEER Interactive discussed new ways to build back links using Twitter and third party tools.  His suggestions showed just how powerful Twitter can be, especially if you can build an active following.

Think of your Twitter followers like this, they are people who are genuinely interested i n what your brand has to say.  Now that you have their attention they are more likely to post your content on their own website getting you those oh so important back links.  Will had suggested using the export.ly tool to find out who follows you on Twitter and the SEOmoz tool to find out who isn’t linking to you.  Twitter followers have already shown an interest in your brand, and if you reach out to the users who do not link to you and convince them to.  View Will’s presentation HERE

2. Use Third Party Tools

There are all sorts of great tools out there to help build your social presence as well as generate leads from this presence.  Here is a list of the top tools you can’t afford to miss:

  1. SEOmoz
  2. Export.ly
  3. ROWfeeder
  4. TweetReach
  5. Ubbersuggest
  6. TweetAdder

I think these tools should get you off to a good start.  Utilizing both tools in conjunction with one another works will too.  Try cross referencing different types of data to really supercharge your targeting efforts.

3. Affiliate Marketing is all About Relationships

If you are developing a new affiliate program, this concept is fundamental to your program’s success. Affiliates want to work with people they can trust and they want someone to talk to when they have questions or concerns.  I would suggest having a dedicated affiliate manager, who works directly with affiliates.  Some services you could provide are banner ads for affiliates, some content they could use in their reviews, box shots, data feeds, and most importantly a direct email and phone number where the affiliate manager can be reached.

Essentially affiliates are another type of sales force for your company.  They build their livelihood around developing new niche site and content, make sure to make their job easier and more pleasurable and  you will turn your affiliates into product evangelists that will drive more traffic and conversions to your website.

4. Social Media Requires Forward Thinking

My talk at the expert roundtable was initially supposed to be about creating and designing Like Worthy Facebook Pages.  We did discuss the best practices, but the discussion turned into a piece about social media and the mindset you need to have while using social media.  Google+ came up a lot during the conversation, mostly companies asking ‘Why bother using it right now?’ This is how I replied:

“You don’t want to be second place on social media. Social media is all about forward thinking, it is imperative that you utilize all of the tools available in order to stay ahead of the crowd. If you are not on Google+ yet because it is not ‘business’ oriented yet, you are doing yourself a disservice. You have the opportunity to create an engaged community on Google+ and when (mind you not if) Google includes businesses to their platform you will be one step ahead of all the other people who said ‘Why bother?’.”

5. There is always a crowd for your product, no matter how lame [you think] it might be

There are always people who will think your concept is cool, no matter what the topic is.  During one session Joe Soussa talked about the incredible size of the knitting community online.  The name of the group escapes me, but he gave an example of a message board of over a million people who LOVE to knit. Now I know I don’t get excited about knitting, but just because I don’t get excited doesn’t mean no one else will.  It is your job as a marketer to sniff out these leads, and leverage different types of marketing efforts to tap these lead wells.

http://www.slideshare.net/wilreynolds/affiliate-summit-keynote-no-shortcuts

Countdown to Affiliate Summit

Posted by Justin Rondeau | Posted in Advice, Affiliate marketing, Conferences | Posted on Aug 15, 2011

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Affiliate Summit East is Almost Here

ASE11 - Check it out

The Affiliate Summit is the premiere conference where merchants, affiliates and networks all get together to discuss successful tactics and make new connections.  After attending the affiliate summit in Las Vegas last fall, I really began to see the benefit of affiliate marketing.  Today, most companies will say if you don’t have a designated member of your staff for affiliate relations, you’re crazy. There is so much money to be made for your company through affiliates, it behooves you to get active on forums like ABestweb or networks like Shareasale.

Prior to attending Affiliate Summit West, we were disconnected from our affiliates and not making any money worth talking about on our affiliate network. The first thing you learn when you are at affiliate summit is that Affiliate marketing is VERY personal. You need to build relationships and trust with your affiliates in order for them to spend time promoting your product.  On top of a mutual trust, it helps that you and your affiliates share a similar vision.  Sharing a similar vision is even more important if you are recruiting niche bloggers, but I wont get into the different types of affiliates here.

Once I learned this integral part of affiliate marketing I began to reach out to my current affiliate base.  They hadn’t heard from us in over 7 months, so it is no wonder our products were not being promoted anymore.  I got into the habit of sending monthly emails telling our affiliates about the current month’s promotions as well as providing them with new banner designs.  You need to become a resource to your affiliates for your joint venture to have any success.

“Affiliate marketing is reserved for the B2C community, there is no room for B2B affiliate marketing”

This statement couldn’t be further from the truth. As a B2B company we have seen an incredible increase in our affiliate sales since we visited Affiliate Summit West. I personally believe these three things contributed to a nearly 400% increase in affiliate sales from 2010 (and we are still only in August!)

1. Attending Affiliate Summit

Affiliate summit gave me all of the information I would ever need to craft an exceptional affiliate program for TemplateZone. There are so many amazing speakers and breakout sessions to go to at Affiliate Summit it is hard to find something you won’t learn.  On top of all of the educational sessions, there is a Meet market where different networks and merchants will give you demos of products as well as an exhibit hall.  By far the most important part about Affiliate Summit is making connections.  This is the chance for you to meet up with any of your current affiliates and put a face behind all of the emails.  If you have not attended an Affiliate Summit you should, too bad Affiliate Summit East is sold out, looks like you will just have to go to Las Vegas (oh shucks).

2. Joining an Affiliate Network

Joining an affiliate network has helped our affiliate sales so much.  We are currently on two affiliate networks, and we could not be happier.  If you are a small merchant looking to get started in affiliate marketing I would HIGHLY suggest using Shareasale.  They have a low adoption fee, and with a revamped interface they are a lot easier to use.  If you are an affiliate, then you should be joining as many networks as possible.

3. Having an ‘Open Door’ Policy

This is incredibly important as an affiliate manager.  Make it known to your affiliates that you want to know what they think! You need to become their resource, you know your company and products better than anyone! Always answer you affilaites inquiries, and also ask if there is antyhing they would like you to do different in the future.  You are essentially getting an interenet sales force at no initial cost, they only make money when you do, so if you keep them happy & active you will be happy.

I will be speaking at Affiliate Summit East at the Experts Roundtables covering social media strategies.  If you are heading out to Affiliate Summit East, be sure to drop by and say “Hi”.