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2Inspire Interview Series
Activation and performance bonuses work well to get the ball rolling. The real and lasting motivation can only come from within.
Evgenii (Geno) Prussakov is a Cambridge graduate, internationally-acclaimed affiliate marketing expert, author of three books, including his newest Affiliate Program Management: An Hour a Day, speaker, award-winning blogger and regular contributor to numerous digital marketing magazines and blogs. He is also the founder of AM Navigator and Affilinomics affiliate management solutions. He now resides in Virginia (USA), continuing to write, speak and actively contribute to the industry.
After reading his books, I felt like I wanted to know more from Geno, who was kind to answer a few questions.
Cristian Miculi: Please tell us a bit about yourself: where does the passion for affiliate marketing come from?
Geno Prussakov: My name is Geno Prussakov. I was born in the Republic of Moldova, back in the days when it was a part of the Soviet Union. I am a professional linguist, and I have also studied psychology and philosophy in Oxford. Additionally, I hold a Master's degree in international relations from the University of Cambridge.
I have been involved in eCommerce for over a decade, and started with affiliate marketing some six years ago promoting an online store that I owned at the time. Largely due to a successful affiliate marketing campaign, the business picked up, and I sold that company over two years ago. I am currently helping other online businesses succeed with this marketing channel by consulting, speaking and writing on the topic.
Cristian Miculi: In the software industry, many authors / vendors believe that affiliate marketing is not working or it's not worth the effort. What can you tell them?
As for [affiliate marketing] not being worth the effort, I'd say that it isn't only when you are not willing to put in enough of effort - be it into affiliate recruitment, policing, or affiliate program management and support.
Geno Prussakov: Affiliate marketing is not working? If it's the competitors of my clients that are thinking that way, I don't want to convince them otherwise. It is working beautifully for me, and hundreds of other businesses on different sides of the affiliate marketing spectrum (advertisers/merchants, affiliates, affiliate networks, program management companies etc). As for it not being worth the effort, I'd say that it isn't only when you are not willing to put in enough of effort - be it into affiliate recruitment, policing, or affiliate program management and support.
Cristian Miculi: You recently talked about the misrepresentation of affiliate marketing, saying that in order to succeed you need to work hard, which is perfectly true. But what about vendor involvement? How much can an affiliate succeed without any help from the vendor whose products he's promoting?
Geno Prussakov: "Vendor involvement" and support are essential, even though in some (rare) cases a vendor can be successfully promoted without much involvement. If it's a large brand that converts well, and the links are well organized, it is possible for an affiliate to succeed with such a merchant. Generally, however, if the vendor is not closely involved in the life of their affiliate campaign, the program suffers. It is essential for every vendor to establish a two-way merchant-affiliate communication channel and ongoing support of their affiliate program.
It is essential for every vendor to establish a two-way merchant-affiliate communication channel and ongoing support of their affiliate program.
Cristian Miculi: You're an experienced affiliate manager. How to find and recruit good affiliates? Can you share some of your tips for affiliate managers out there that want to increase their sales online through affiliates?
Geno Prussakov: Absolutely. There are 6 techniques that I use on a continuous basis. All of them start with a letter "S": (1) software, (2) social media, (3) search engines, (4) second-tier affiliates, (5) summits and symposiums, and (6) symbiotic recruitment. You can read about them all in detail here. My experience has taught me that while all of the above-quoted ways work well individually, it is often a combination of several of them that helps an affiliate manager recruit affiliates (especially, the larger ones). You engage in conversations on affiliate marketing blogs and forums, then run across the same affiliates while recruiting via e-mail, and then meet them face to face at a conference, and suddenly it clicks! Do not be afraid to experiment in your affiliate recruitment; but whatever you do, show sincere respect to the people that you want to partner with (i.e. potential affiliates).
Cristian Miculi: Communication between the affiliates and the affiliate managers is very important. How do you communicate with the affiliates you manage?
Geno Prussakov: I communicate with affiliates via all communication methods available to me: e-mail, instant messengers, phone (only if I know they are okay with it!), regular mail and personal meetings, my blog and affiliate marketing forums (like ABestWeb), Twitter (you may find me @eprussakov) and Facebook.
Cristian Miculi: You wrote a very interesting post about the differences between management and leadership. What does it take to be an affiliate leader (not only manager)?
Geno Prussakov: The full answer to your question would take a book. If, however, I were to narrow things down to, say, three essential steps to becoming a true affiliate leader, they would be: (1) stop managing, (2) start listening, and (3) stand up for your values. Yes, affiliate program managers need to understand that management is not for affiliates. They can manage an affiliate program, but when it comes to affiliates, they should be sensitive and open-minded leaders. Additionally, many affiliate program managers are talking at their affiliates, but never bother to really listen, and respond to them. And, finally, it is sad but true -- some affiliate program managers live by low ethical standards, which eventually hinder the development of the industry in the right direction.
Cristian Miculi: From your experience, what motivates affiliates to promote your brand more prominently?
The question of how to motivate marketers is a fascinating one. I believe that the short answer is: by fostering an intrinsic motivation.
Geno Prussakov: Again a question that could take a good book chapter. You'll be surprised, but it is neither money, nor making all things go right within your affiliate program (i.e. having a 100% affiliate-friendly website without "leaks", with well-converting wisely-formatted landing pages etc), running ongoing bonus campaigns, providing performance-based commission increases, satisfying every possible creative need affiliates may have, providing a well-categorized detailed product data feed etc. Activation and performance bonuses work well to get the ball rolling. The real and lasting motivation can only come from within. As Frederick Herzberg wrote, a time comes when "compensation and incentive packages" are not motivating enough for people. This happens because a manager "can charge a person's battery, and then recharge it, and recharge it again", but "it is only when one has a generator of one's own that we can talk about motivation". The question of how to motivate marketers is a fascinating one. I believe that the short answer is: by fostering an intrinsic motivation.
Cristian Miculi: What's better for a business - having many affiliates, each selling less or having fewer affiliates, each making more money?
Geno Prussakov: Whatever makes you more money at the end of the funnel.
Cristian Miculi: Can you share a few examples of affiliate program pitfalls to avoid?
Geno Prussakov: Gladly. I'll give you the 5 that I believe to be the most deadly: (1) autopilot approach to affiliate program management (aka: no-one-at-the-helm approach), (2) leaks (showing disrespect to your affiliates by allow the traffic they refer "leak" either to other websites that do not credit affiliates for the traffic, or to your call center that has no way of tracking affiliate-referred orders), (3) treating all affiliates the same way, (4) believing your job is to manage affiliates, and (5) providing no communication channel (I've touched upon the latter two in the foregoing).
Incidentally, my eComXpo presentation on July 8 2009 is going to be on the mistakes for affiliate program managers and merchants to avoid, and I would love to see you there. This is an online event that is free to attend.
Cristian Miculi: How do you see affiliate marketing in the next 5 to 10 years?
Geno Prussakov: It is extremely hard to make such a prediction about an industry that is only a decade old, and is functioning in such a vibrant context as the Internet. One thing that I can say now is that I would like to see it being more thoroughly studied, more clearly regulated/represented, and more organized.