Recently I had a chance to talk with Tim Burd of www.ploose.com and www.timburd.com and ask him a few questions. He’s a leader in the affiliate marketing space with plenty of wisdom to share with affiliates. Check out the interview below for some pretty amazing insights.
[Mark] What do you see as the up and coming traffic source for affiliates?
[Tim] For affiliates Id say mobile is still up and coming and Facebook is getting better and better. For advertisers or smart affiliates Re-Targeting is AMAZING as well. I have a custom built ad network that I will launch sometime in the next year that will do some pretty spectacular stuff that I know everyone from new affiliates to advanced affiliates to agencies to advertisers will absolutely love and wish that many of the current ad networks could do. It is built already but needs some database optimizations and more UI work :).
[Mark] Which traffic sources do you see as dead in affiliate marketing?
[Tim] I don’t see any traffic sources dead as every traffic source fits a certain type of offer requirement but I do however see incentivized traffic dying a slow and painful death. I am sure there are a few incent networks that can keep it going but I know the advertiser turn-over rate is very high and its tough to find new verticals that it even works for.
[Mark] From a trend point of view what’s different this year over last year?
[Tim] Things change so quickly in this industry its insane. FTC and other regulatory agencies are cracking down harder. Mobile and niche ad networks are trending even better. Sub-par CPA Networks are going out of business which hurts some affiliates in the short run but in the long run is a good thing. I think the industry will continue to trend in the direction of transparency.
[Mark] Is mobile really that important?
[Tim] YES! Mobile is something I do a bit of but am focusing on more and more as catching the user on their phone has many advantages and people have their phone with them 24×7 as opposed to the limited amount of time they may spend on the actual computer. With the way mobile is trending you cant be very bright if you dont see the potential.
[Mark] Which affiliate shows do you like to attend? Why?
[Tim] I like AdTech a lot. Affiliate Summit is great and LeadsCon is great as well. Each show has a slightly different crowd and atmosphere but there are great people to meet at all of them and a lot to learn so anyone that doesnt go to these shows I HIGHLY recommend that you do. Meeting people face to face is a crucial part to business.
[Mark] What advice would you give to yourself starting out as an affiliate?
[Tim] I would tell myself to read a lot of the right industry blogs (like this one) as well as some others. To go to as many conventions as possible. To try a few different ad networks and see what kind of traffic you are most comfortable with and to find a mentor and a good business partner to bounce ideas off. At the end of the day we are all only one person and as a team you can accomplish a lot more. I didn’t really have a mentor and learned more or less through expensive trial and errors but after almost a decade in the industry I wouldnt change it for the world. I love the internet marketing industry with a passion.
[Mark] Is it possible to build a long term business as an affiliate?
[Tim] Define long term? LOL. This industry changes so quickly I feel like “long term” here is 5 years whereas in other industries its 10+. My honest answer is that I do think it is possible, however it is not something I would recommend to those who are truly ambitious. I think 2-3 years as an affiliate with networks/going direct to advertisers gives you a solid foundation. Try different traffic types. Get a good feel for the industry then once you have built a good foundation, start expanding. Running a ton of traffic profitably to a diet offer? Start your own. Lots of quality traffic to a lead gen offer? Start your own. Now this isnt easy and you really need to be good at what you do but with the right team in place it is a great move to make especially if there is a lot of margin in doing it yourself which depending on the vertical sometimes there is and sometimes there isnt. WARNING: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO START YOUR OWN OFFER IF YOU HAVE NEVER HAD A PROFITABLE CAMPAIGN AS AN AFFILIATE. It is a LOT of work and takes someone on their A game. It also doesn’t have to be a CPA offer, get creative and build a new site and use your knowledge of traffic generation and marketing to flood it with traffic and monetize it and build something that is an asset. As an affiliate only, you are building someone elses brand. To have a long term business, you must build your own.
[Mark] Would you ever consider taking an apprentice?
[Tim] Yes, I have before in multiple senses of the word. From actual apprentices to running affiliate programs and networks essentially mentoring a large number of people and actually helping them and giving them support and motivation during those days things just don’t go right. Being a good business owner isn’t just about knowing what you are doing, it’s about keeping those around you motivated.
[Mark] What do you see as the most important traits of an affiliate manager?
[Tim] This is really a catch 22. Unfortunately most of the important traits of a great affiliate manager are traits it doesn’t make financial sense for an affiliate manager to do. A great affiliate manager would know all about how to run campaigns on a wide variety of traffic sources or networks, know all about how to help affiliates set up p202 or place pixels and do subid pass throughs and so on. They would be able to help give the affiliate advice on day parting, per keyword/source/target/ad/browser optimization and ways to optimize their landing page as well as a scope on what traffic networks work well with what types of offers etc. And lastly this AM would be available all the time online. NOW, the reason this reason you RARELY find this is because if the AM knows everything I said extremely well, they would be a huge affiliate and not an AM.
[Mark] How closely do you interact with the affiliates of your network?
[Tim] I owned and operated a couple of different networks over the span of 5 or 6 years and worked very closely with them. It gets difficult as the company grows though to give each one the attention they deserve. We shut down the network side of Ploose on Dec 31 to start the year clean and focus on our agency side which has been a great asset to us. We decided to focus on that as in my opinion its much more profitable, stable and less headaches. I have been able to help literally thousands of people make money on the internet and in many cases their very first paycheck from internet marketing. I am always offering advice to good people and its been amazing seeing guys that started as a new affiliate 5 years ago now very successful in the industry whether very large affiliates, advertisers and network owners. I feel blessed to have been able to help and will continue to do my best.
[Mark] If you had a choice of buying an awesome car, watch, or vacation – which would you buy?
[Tim] I would invest more into my company and not buy any of them but if it was going to be one of those…it would definitely be a car. I have always loved cars. Over the years I have had some interesting ones from Maserati’s to Range Rovers to Ferraris. I raced cars when I was 17-19 or so on the track and really loved it.
[Mark] Of all your business accomplishments what makes you the most proud?
[Tim] Honestly this is a tough question. I would say probably my first network I started with $30k total. I built it slowly and within a year I was doing almost $1M a month with over 35% Net Margin. It was based on dating rebills and very niche and custom but it was a wild idea that proved to be worth millions, literally. And what makes me so proud of it is that everyone I asked before I started it said that it would never work and if it did, wouldnt make much money. Oh how they were wrong!
[Mark] What was your worst business experience and what did you learn from it?
[Tim] The worst experience was when Visa changed regulations and stopped allowing 3rd party x-sells. It was a huge hit to the dating re-bill industry and put a lot of the advertisers out of business nearly overnight – including most of mine. I had gone so niche and not diversified that instantly I was out $750k from the advertisers combined and it was so custom that I didnt have any advertisers that could pay what I needed per trial. I paid out affiliates anyway out of pocket. I tried spinning the current monetization a bit but ended up needing to take a step back and re-invent my business and learn from the mistakes I had made.
[Mark] Why do you think so many networks are going out of business?
[Tim] Simple, the application system I had done custom was an amazing tool and one that helped Ploose a lot during the network days. The affiliates need to be vetted MUCH harder. There is so much fraud out there it is absolutely unreal. This ruins the industry. Theres also advertiser fraud which is on the rise but not as rampant as affiliate fraud. Then theres guys that start CPA Networks and have no clue what they are getting themselves into. They usually only last 2-3 months. Then there is cases of bad money management in the case of azoogle/epic. At the end of the day it comes down to vetting affiliates and advertisers and solid management as well as a boat load of money to be able to take any potential hits or late payments from advertisers without batting an eye lash. The only four things you need to have a successful network at the end of the day is: 1. Liquid Money. 2. Great, Honest Affiliates. 3. Great advertisers. 4. Great Management. If you have all of that, things run nice and smooth.
[Mark] How has your network handled fraud the past few years? What’s the trend?
[Tim] Our vetting was very intense. Anyone that went through the process, especially with me personally that it was the most comprehensive “interview/application” than any other network. I required screenshots of earnings, phone verification, in depth phone interviews, I matched screen resolutions of screenshots with the resolution of their screen on the interview process and the list goes on. I think getting fraud systems like ScrubKit or CPADetective are extremely smart as well. There are still some things that only a human currently can spot so some sort of manual review is needed. The trend is that its getting worse and more sophisticated. I have seen fraud or the attempt of it for over 7 years of trying to catch it and it has gotten progressively more advanced. Networks: Vet your affiliates harder. They will thank you for it when you don’t go out of business and continue to pay them on time.
[Mark] What new verticals do you see trending in the next 12 months?
[Tim] All the niches that have been around for years have all stayed about the same honestly. I see the “Niche” Vertical as the trending Vertical. I know its a bit generalized and arguably an actual Vertical however niche is what is trending, has been, and will continue to. Could be anything from a specialized dog collar to a lead for hail damage. I also see pay per call getting significantly larger as many companies still dont know it exists. It isnt right for every client but for many it is a perfect fit.
[Mark] How important is outsourcing to your success?
[Tim] I try to in-house everything I can. I outsource things at times like data monetization or quick 1 day jobs but in the typical sense I try not to outsource employees. I did for many many years though using freelancers for everything from coding to design to copywriting etc but as the demand for things increase it makes more financial sense from a business owners perspective to in-house it due to not only cost savings but also for the synergy that comes from everyone being together.
[Mark] Has your business effected where you live?
[Tim] If I was doing something non-internet related I would be confined to one city. I have actually moved around a lot. I have lived in Texas, OC, LA, Chicago, and even in Central America (panama) for a brief time. I have been a bit more stationed once we opened all of our offices but I travel so much I don’t really care much where I live. I do love Chicago though with a passion (minus the weather of course).
[Mark] What do you think the key is to finding trending niches to promote?
[Tim] Trending niches are great but I try to find things that aren’t trending because less people competing = higher margins. I do trending stuff now and then don’t get me wrong but I certainly prefer to create the trend than follow it when it comes to “hot offers” or “hot niches”. If you do want to find them its simple, spend a bit of time on the right FB groups or forums and go to the conventions and talk to people. Make the right friends in the industry and be a good person and keep a close group of them close to bounce ideas off, brainstorm etc. Help them in the ways you can and if they are a quality person they will do the same for you.
[Mark] If you had to do it all over again would you enter the CPA space or go with big brands?
[Tim] I wouldn’t change a thing about how I entered the space :). It brought me to where I am right now and I certainly can’t complain about that!
I want to say thank you to OfferVault for the interview and for providing a valuable tool to the industry. I also want to thank everyone who took the time to read this. It is a bit lengthy but I hope you liked it and please leave me your feedback below or at www.timburd.com! Thanks!