I would like to thank Jessica Luthi from Affiliate Program Advice, for agreeing to be the second in my series of interview. I first got to know Jessica about 5 years ago through the A4U forum when I was just starting out. She is one of those remarkable individuals who while at the top of their industry still have a lot of time for those new to it.
Q. How did you get into affiliate marketing?
A. In 1997 I got my first Mac Power PC in the UK and was using an ISP called Compuserve and joining lots of their own forums, very US centric, in those days you had the choice between Compuserve or Demon Internet. At this time I was working at Classic FM Radio in their loyalty department, I remember having a brain wave and thinking about new customer acquisitions and how we could use the Internet (what there was of it in the UK at that time) to create awareness. Upon further research I stumbled upon a forum which had been set up by Fox Tucker (Co Founder of UKAffiliates.com) and it was all about “affiliate marketing.” It was here I discovered that loyalty marketing was already happing in the US and it was called affiliate marketing. Essentially, what I had been doing offline on a day to day basis was happing online but in another country. I noticed a Job Advert in the forum posted by Fox Tucker talking about bringing affiliate marketing to the UK, so I emailed him about the job and he came to see me and within four weeks I started working for ukaffiliates.com as the affiliate manager 1999.
Q. What was your biggest challenge getting into affiliate marketing?
A. Technology and terminology. The theory of affiliate marketing was always easier to understand than the practice. When I first started out my knowledge of technology was how to type a “hyper link” into “the top bit” I did not know what a browser was even and a cookie? It was a biscuit! The only way I could learn about affiliate marketing in terms of technology was to become “a web master” in turn that sorted out the terminology dilemma. I was very lucky too, I had a partner who was a software developer working on the old Y2K problem remember that?
Once I got the hang of building a website and adding a few Amazon links and understanding simple tracking, what started out as a job ended up being a hobby and a passion. I still believe the same rules apply for any one coming into the industry. To understand what its like to be an affiliate should be compulsory, its not as easy as a lot of people seem to think, mostly the merchants / advertisers.
Q. What are the main things merchants do that you wish they wouldn’t?
A. The tendency is to point fingers at affiliates for not achieving the advertisers/merchant own revenue income expectations. Rather than look at their own website in terms of structure and usability (in essence conversions). Impatience has got to be the most frustrating aspect of affiliate marketing. I think over the years we have lost the term “loyalty marketing,” had we kept this in place then I would still be saying every online merchant should and could have a loyalty based affiliate program. But the goal posts have shifted and now it’s about not if a merchant or advertiser could have an affiliate program but should they have an affiliate program.
Managing affiliates is one thing but managing merchants and advertisers is seldom discussed. Managing merchants’ expectations is a tough part of affiliate marketing as often is the case, the merchant /advertiser is embarking in affiliate marketing with little or no prior knowledge. How do you transfer eleven years of knowledge in a few hour sessions? It cant be done and this can lead to conflict sometimes as it’s not just affiliate marketing you are helping them with, it’s also about teaching them about analytics, organic SEO, Paid Search and forward planning. The dilemma we the “Affiliates” “Affiliate Networks” “Agencies” have is, should we be teaching advertisers/merchants about organic seo and website usability, analytics, paid search, email marketing when all they have signed up for is an affiliate program.
I also feel that some advertisers/merchants see affiliate marketing as some kind of instant magic wand. That you simply plug in and go. What few seem to hear is that an affiliate program takes a lot of time to nurture, grow and mature. We see the greatest and most successful affiliate programs are the ones who have longevity where strong powerful relationships have been developed over time.
Q. What are the main things affiliates do that you wish they wouldn’t?
A. I think the number one most annoying thing for our affiliate managers is seeing old out of date promos on an affiliate’s site. Affiliates are supposed to be providing their own traffic, before they refer to their advertisers/merchants a good experience. Of course we understand a lot of the time it is a time management issue. But if affiliates go to all that trouble to get traffic then why not give them a good reason to come back and at least have up to date content. To balance this out its fair to say that some out of date affiliate pages are cache pages.
Voucher codes (coupons) that don’t exist is a personal pet hate of mine. Being ethical means being fair from all sides of the fence to ensure the consumer will click through and have a great user journey from start to finish as we know good experience will keep bringing that consumer back on line again and again. I sometimes wonder if we don’t get so embroiled in trying to make money that we forget that all important end user in return for a quick profit.
Q. Where do you see growth in the affiliate field?
A. I still think there are a lot of niche sectors out there where by affiliates can take long tail search phrases and capitalize. I believe there is still masses of opportunity in product specific searches. Affiliates are still not tapping into offline advertising in terms of getting traffic to their own sites.
Mobile affiliate marketing is one to watch. There is some interesting technology being developed as I type. I still think online gambling for the US will come back. I can see a lot of cross border affiliate marketing where by savvy affiliates can get a head start in places like Europe, Australia and Asia. I’m not so sure about social networking in terms of shopping online, for me it’s still a bit hit and miss. Trends of course will always give rise to new opportunities, for example, environmental issues, so what’s the next biggest thing? For me its mobile marketing but not as in txt and win competitions but in terms of mobile response and phones being used like a credit card.
Q. What do you do to improve the world?
A. I support a number of charities including Amnesty International, The Blue Cross, Walden House and NSPCC.
Q. What do you do that is green?
A. I walk or take a bus rather then drive and I recycle, use low energy light bulbs.
Q. What is one thing about you that not many people know?
A. I won mixed doubles championships in the sport of Pool in Brighton at the age of 18.
I love the game still.
Q. What is on your iPod?
A. The Clash – London Calling
Q. What’s your favorite book?
A. Souls of Black Folk by W E B DuBois and Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, Bill Bryson, and To Kill a Mocking Bird, Harper Lee and English Civil War, Lawrence Stone. Many others :0)
Q. What are your contact details (email, company, blog, facebook, myspace, forums etc) ?
Q. Who would you recommend and why?
A. I can’t be pinned down to just one person. There are many including Murray Newlands in terms of his approach and knowledge. I do know I would be nowhere without one of my best friends and coolest banner and website designer Chuck Couch of . It’s rare to meet a designer that understands that the banners, graphics, websites need to convert and look good, so I would recommend him everytime, he is just my rock!