While attending Affiliate Summit East 2012, I met Josh Ewin, the Director of Marketing for FortressITX. He’s been in the marketing industry since 1996 and has written for several industry magazines including Website Magazine and Ping!Zine. Since Josh is an expert in the affiliate marketing industry, I took the opportunity to ask him some deeper questions.
You’re here at Affiliate Summit promoting your program, so what sets your affiliate program apart from others in the web hosting industry?
Dedicated Dollars is a rev-share program. Most others are CPA based, which has its pluses and minuses. For affiliates, the benefit is that you have the opportunity to generate more in commissions. On the contrary, if you’re with another company like 1&1, you’d have a flat commission. Another plus to our affiliate program is that it’s run in-house, so we generally have a closer relationship with our affiliates.
How do you see the affiliate marketing industry changing in the next 5 years?
In the next 5 years, I predict the FTC will play a bigger role. The FTC has already mandated certain disclosure. For instance, if you’re writing a recommendation for a particular vendor, you have to disclose that information. In addition, I also see credit card processing being an even bigger challenge for merchants. Mobile marketing is mostly a niche now, but I think it will play a bigger role in the next five years. There don’t seem to be many big players in the mobile industry, yet. But, I believe it will take off in the next few years. It’s likely there will be more networks. Every time I hit this show there are more networks, and more big networks, versus more niche players.
What do you enjoy most about affiliate marketing?
The thing I enjoy most about affiliate marketing is that it is performance-based. So, as a marketer, I can see my hard work pay off directly. There’s a lot of gambling in marketing. For instance, you could do all your homework and do everything right, but at the end of the day, there’s a chance you won’t have a positive ROI to show for it. But, with performance marketing, you’re paying for actual sales.
What tools do you use on a daily basis?
I use Google Analytics, iDevAffiliate, Eloqua, Hootsuite, TweetDeck and SEOmoz on a daily basis. There are many others in the arsenal, as well, but these are definitely programs I would recommend to just about any marketer out there.
What have you written that you are the proudest of?
The piece I’m most proud of is a three-part series for Website Magazine where I interviewed SEO experts Bruce Clay, Rand Fishkin, and Derek Vaughan. These guys are huge. It was great to sit down and speak with major influencers in the field.
How do you find ideas for writing and what’s your process like?
Every good writer/blogger has a sketch pad of ideas, with a list always brewing. There are many times when I’m in line at the grocery store when a fantastic idea comes to mind. So, I make sure to write it down on my list. When starting my writing process, I go over this list of ideas and find what I think will work best at that time. Once I have my piece written, I revise it because I believe great articles are not written, they are re-written.
Speaking of brewing, I heard you brew your own beer. Can you tell me a little bit about that?
LOL. Sure. I love good food and good beer. I just recently started homebrewing and managed not to send anyone to the hospital, which I’m kind of proud of. Homebrewing is a lot of fun, and if you’re interested in getting into it, definitely checkout Midwest Supplies or your local brew store.
How do you evaluate your content?
Everyone writes guest posts and other types of content. But, some do it better than others. Social media can play a big part in getting a sense of whether people are reading your content. A goal of mine is to start producing more videos to get my thoughts out. I’m currently working on making more time for that.
How do you see Google AuthorRank affecting the industry?
I don’t see AuthorRank having a massive impact. Panda and Penguin had an emphasis on quality content. So, this (Author Rank) will be another contributing factor, but it won’t be what people are talking most about.
How do you feel about outsourcing SEO/SEM, including affiliate program management?
With the right partner, this can be done well. You need to really do your due diligence on any SEO/SEM partner out there, because it’s very difficult to externally confirm the results that an outsourced company has had with SEO/SEM. With affiliate program management, I think it’s a good idea for a company like ours. If you’re short on time and resources (really, what company isn’t?), carefully outsourcing components of the strategy can be a great strategy.
Do you use PPC to promote your affiliate program?
Actually, no. PPC isn’t a part of our marketing plan for Dedicated Dollars. That program has grown on its own, and we’re pretty selective with the partners we work with. We’ll be getting into a couple networks by the end of the year and will continue attending great tradeshows, like ASE12.
What type of results or benefits can a company participating in an affiliate program expect?
Affiliate marketing isn’t magic – it’s just like anything else: you’ll get out of it what you put into it. I would say though, that you need to have a few things under control to do well… You need to have a decent affiliate commission tracking system in place, keep your offers updated, and provide your affiliates with the materials (banners, links, coupon codes) they need to sell your product. Beyond that, you need to actively go out and find good affiliates and consistently work with them to keep them active with your program. Above all else, remain transparent with your program. If an affiliate has sent you a high amount of fraud, communicate with them so they understand what’s going on.
Why would a small business want to launch an affiliate program?
On a limited budget, an affiliate program can be a great way to market your service or product without the same kind of investment that other marketing methods (i.e. print, PPC, media buys) require.
How much time does it typically take to make the program a success?
To see a positive ROI, not much time at all – perhaps 1 or 2 months. However, you need to take the long view on ‘success’ and continually work at it and improve your program, your affiliates, and your offers.
Do you have any questions for me?
What was your impression of ASE12? As a first time attendee, I’d like to know what stood out for you.
This was my first time to attend Affiliate Summit in New York. However, I did attend Affiliate Summit Central in Austin. The difference between the shows was vast. There were so many more people, and the showroom was much larger and more crowded. The sessions were both informative and entertaining. I went to Wil Reynolds’ session on Google’s changes. He is extremely knowledgeable about SEO and what it takes to rank. He did a great job of presenting the information in an amusing fashion. What stood out for me in every session I attended was the reoccurring theme of creating a meaningful relationship with your audience and then maintaining it. The idea is no longer to simply to get a link, like, or share. It makes perfect sense after all – nobody likes spam.
The thought of going to the big city alone can be a bit scary. The good news is: Affiliate Summit has a new-comers program for first-time attendees. The Newcomer Program helps connect first time attendees with Affiliate Summit veterans. It’s pretty good for networking as a first-timer. On the other hand, if you’re a veteran, you can volunteer. As a thank you, you get a link to your site from a web site hosted by Affiliate Summit.
One of the tips I heard numerous times while attending different sessions at Affiliate Summit is to share your knowledge with your audience for free. That’s exactly what Josh did. I would like to thank him for taking time out of his day while at the conference to speak with me and share some of his knowledge.