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I have known Stephen Pratley of Shine Marketing since I got into affiliate marketing and affiliate managment, I did not know he was such an Action Man ( you will get the point later) but in the years that I have known him he has been helpful, knowledgeable and incisive. I would recommend Stephen Pratley and Shine Marketing.

Tell me about Shine Marketing?

Shine Marketing build eCommerce sites for online retailers. We come at it very much from a marketing angle rather than just technology or design skills so we make sure that implementing SEO, email marketing or affiliate programmes doesn’t cause chaos when a client wants to implement them further down the line.

What is the future for Shine Marketing?

We’re very much tied to the growth of eCommerce overall, making sure that the offerings of our clients keep ahead of pace. Right now we’re doing some great work with Kingston University on ‘customer decision support’ on online retail sites; making sure shoppers can find what they want and raise conversions on our client’s websites

How did you get into affiliate marketing?

I started an eCommerce business in 2002 – thebeautyroom.co.uk – and came across it then as a merchant. I launched a programme with Affiliate Future who I still have good relationships with today. After that I managed the member recruitment for the ipoints loyalty scheme which was interesting as I was a merchant and an affiliate all at the same time.

What was your biggest challenge getting into affiliate marketing?

Probably understanding how it fits with in all the other things merchants do. It’s not a tactic like email, PPC or SEO as your affiliates do all that. It’s a way of rewarding them, but that means there are more obligations on the merchant to make it work rather than just write a cheque and leave it to your agency.

What are the main things merchants do that you wish they wouldn’t?

Set-it-and-forget-it. For some reason merchants think that affiliate marketing is the silver bullet, free business with no effort. Anyone who has ever managed a commission-only salesforce will know that’s not the case. It needs a business that can already prove itself, and constant work to keep your affiliates up-to-date with what you’re doing.

What are the main things affiliates do that you wish they wouldn’t?

Keep quiet! I think that affiliates should do more to promote themselves, find the best deals merchants have to offer and make new merchants aware of the value they can offer, whether they have expertise in given niches and so on. A few big players do it, but there are loads of affiliates who don’t. Act like a big publisher and don’t be afraid of showing off what you have.

Where do you see growth in the affiliate field?

Definitely in publishers taking a longer term view, focussing on adding real value for the consumer and for the merchant. ‘Old’ media firms are falling apart and there’s plenty of opportunity.

What new ideas are advertisers coming up with to take advantage of new traffic sources?

One thing we really try to get our clients to focus on is looking at where their traffic is coming form and adapting accordingly. It’s more about better conversions than more traffic, but as they create better content for each niche, there’s a knock on effect in SEO and social media traffic.

What do you do to improve the world?

I’m a big networker by nature and obsessive about my work, and I really enjoy passing on little tips, contacts and help to people who I know will appreciate it. I’ve completely fallen in love with Twitter for doing this on a bigger scale.

What do you do that is green?

I chose my office to be within walking distance of home and only one person commutes here by car. I also cycle quite a lot. It’s really a selfish thing though, I hate being stuck in a car. I don’t think the motivation matters though.

What is one thing about you that not many people know?

My first job in ‘New Media’ was as the account director for the Action Man website. A ridiculous job title for anyone to have.

What is on your iPod?

Endless trance compilations for when I’m on the stationery bike. I’m rubbish with music so when they shut down Pandora.com in the UK it was like ‘the day the music died’. Kieron Donoghue has saved the day with his blog and sharemyplaylists.com so I always have something on in the office he’d approve of.

What’s your favourite book?

I’ve just finished Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell, and I keep dipping back into the 4 Hour Work Week. By Timothy Ferriss. 90% of it is complete fantasy but there is some great stuff in there when I’m a bit overwhelmed with work.

What are your contact details (email, company, blog, facebook, myspace, forums etc) ?

www.shinemarketing.com for work stuff, twitter.com/stephenpratley for random bits about online marketing and cycling, stephenpratley.com is my blog (a bit dusty right now). Facebook and MySpace have fallen off my radar now. Linkedin is good too if I really know you.

Who would recommend you and why?

My clients, nearly all our work comes by word of mouth. I have a crowd of friends from when I used to row also, some of whom are clients and suppliers now. For some reason a lot of them work in IT or media jobs.

Who would you recommend and why?

My PR agency Business Accent PR – great at clearing away the jargon and just getting on with it

Katy Howell at Immediate Future who do social media PR for big brands (a client), another person who is obsessive about what they do. Check out the Twitter guide on their website.

Pete Dickenson at Affiliate Future – set me on the first steps as a merchant and been there ever since.

Lee McCoy – great SEO for sorting out your website (if Shine Marketing didn’t build it!) I worked with him on some real pigs ears before we started link building campaigns.

Georgie Coleridge Cole at Sheerluxe.com – a model affiliate for any luxury merchant.

Affiliates4u.com – encompasses loads of people, but mainly Matt Wood for starting it and creating the best affiliate resource in the UK (if not the world!) , the Expo team for giving the industry plenty of face-to-face opportunities, the moderators for keeping the spammers at bay and about a dozen others who contribute really helpful stuff.

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