Erin Garcia has been in the industry for over 10 years, since its “Wild West” beginnings. As one of the first women in the CPA industry she is a well known figure, having worked for everyone from Vayan Marketing Group to Market Leverage. She’s now moved over to new comer CrushAds, owned by BMI Elite one of the leading email and lead generation companies in the industry. She brings her knowledge, intelligence and wit as their VP of Affiliate Marketing. We sat down with her and talked about the changes in the industry, what she sees in 201. Interesting interview with an interesting lady.
How did you get started in Affiliate Marketing?
Back in 1999 an ex-boyfriend landed a job as CTO for a Boca email marketing company. Once I realized how much money they were making by sending emails I knew I had to get involved. He ended up starting his own company with a couple partners and brought me in to manage his business interests… I was hooked. I’ve been in love with this industry ever since!
What do you think about all the CPA Networks closing their doors recently?It’s definitely not surprising. The most important thing a network can do is make sure they have the funds to pay their publishers. When you have a bunch of execs with large salaries & bonuses, huge decadent offices and are dropping ridiculous amounts of money to show off at tradeshows while having to take out a credit line to pay your publishers, you are doing something wrong. It’s like a house of cards… one wrong move and it’s all going to come crashing down.
At the same time you have networks that like to push the line on how they treat their publishers and how they sell to the end consumers. You can’t expect to steal your publishers’ campaigns, give them to other publishers and at the end of the day still have a base of partners that want to do business with you. Our industry is comprised of extremely smart people and if you do this, you won’t get away with it for long. You also can’t expect to build a sustainable business using flogs to promote offers, promoting/ owning offers that essentially trap consumers into being rebilled for your product or generally using deceptive practices. Sure you can make a quick buck, but situations like these will catch up with you.
Why did you move over to working for CrushAds?
I had just taken 6 months off to have a baby and was anxious to get back to the grind. Brandon, who I have known for 10 years, approached me wanting to take a small network he was working on to the next level. After seeing how successful BMI Elite was and is, I knew that working with him would be a solid fit and give Crush Ads the financial backing that it needed to put the right team in place and ensure we could scale publisher payments quickly. He also was fully behind my vision to create something that caters to publishers and helps alleviate some of the daily challenges they face. Coming from the publisher side myself, I know how hard it is to drive traffic and also find a trustworthy network to send that traffic through.
What makes CrushAds interesting and different from every other affiliate network?
Our #1 priority is customer service. We want to do things the RIGHT way and we aren’t here to make a quick dollar, disappear and then reappear again under a different name. All of our execs are 10+ year veterans and we aren’t going anywhere. One example of this is scrubbing. There has been a lot of talk about networks scrubbing over the past few months. It definitely happens, there is no denying that. I want to set the record straight that Crush Ads does NOT scrub. We actually audit stats every Monday so that we can add in untracked sales to our publishers. If we catch an advertiser doing things they shouldn’t their offers are going to be taken down immediately, which is something we have done a few times already.
We also employ a strict no fraud tolerance policy. One thing I don’t think a lot of publishers realize is that fraudulent traffic drives down their payouts even though they aren’t the ones driving the fraudulent traffic. Advertisers often account for having a certain amount of fraudulent traffic “slip through the cracks” and because of this they will lower the payout across the board to make up for it. If we catch a publisher sending fraud traffic they are gone from the network, not just the campaign – we don’t care about the margin we would make allowing them to stay and jump from campaign to campaign. By working hard to maintain quality traffic streams with our advertisers we are able to provide our publishers with stable campaigns that often have higher payouts. Publishers work hard and take a lot of risk, so we feel this is the least that we can do to protect them. I personally feel that fraud is one of the biggest factors having a negative impact on our industry right now and will do whatever I can to fight back against it. So be warned lead stuffers and general affiliate scum bags… Crush Ads is not the network that will turn a blind eye just to collect their piece of the pie.
Last but not least, we invest a huge amount time bringing in direct to advertiser deals and developing offers internally. We don’t have a network full of rebrokered offers and are direct on about 90% of our offers. This allows us to push through a lot of unique strategies our publishers bring to the table, which so far have done very well! In addition to greater flexibility working direct with the advertisers we also can ensure that tracking is on point, that we are passing on the highest payouts and that the advertisers can measure the true value of each of our publishers traffic. We also work closely with our publishers and prefer that their needs drive our advertiser sales strategies.
What tools do you recommend for affiliates?
There are lots of new technologies that have come out that I like. I have to say one of the ones I recommend the most is Fiverr. You can use it for anything from getting content written, to having videos done and creating market research groups. Having instant access to so many different resources for $5 has opened up a lot of possibilities. I can have 10 different people write 10 different sets of content and combine the best parts all for $50. Or I can have 10 different people critique a site for me for $50.
Another tool that we recently started using is EmailOnAcid.com. This allows us to preview email creatives in different clients and mobile devices along with checking to see how deliverable the creative is. If you are sending email, this is definitely a tool that I recommend. The guys with Bevo Media offer some fantastic tools to manage PPC campaigns along with allowing you to consolidate the networks you work with into one interface. While we are on the topic of search, SpyFu.Com is a great site for seeing what your competition is all about. Another tool that I am extremely interested in is Ian Fernando’s new product Offer Snitch, but I haven’t had the time to test it out yet. I think that knowing when advertisers make changes to their landing pages and conversion flow is extremely important.
What are some great new traffic sources that you’d like to talk about, what is working for your affiliates?
I keep saying that mobile is where it’s at. We are seeing 20 – 30% of the traffic coming from email publishers on our internal offers is from mobile devices. We are racing right now to implement and optimize mobile pages to better capture the users’ attention when they come through on mobile devices. This is something that I recommend every to every single advertiser as well. Also, in app advertising is growing by leaps and bounds. Another area to keep your eye on is the international markets – specifically Asia, South America and of course the English speaking countries. You may want to consider getting your Rosetta Stone on and jumping into those markets!
What do you think the biggest challenge in 2012 will be for the affiliate marketing industry?
Without a doubt it’s fraud. If the major players don’t start doing more to self-regulate and hold each other accountable, the government is going to step in more than it already has and do it themselves. We all know if that happens, nobody is going to like it.
Every year more and more large brands are making the leap into pay for performance marketing. This brings huge budgets and lots of opportunity to our industry. To support this, I believe the industry as a whole needs to focus on cleaning up its reputation. I also believe that you will continue to see the trend of networks going out of business while the number of new networks popping up will decrease.
Where will CrushAds be this time next year?
Without going too much into our strategy, I can say that we have a lot of focus going into three areas during 2012. First, pay per call advertising and driving inbound sales calls. We have developed a proprietary software that we are currently using to support inbound campaigns. Second is mobile marketing. Last and certainly not least, we are focusing on developing in-house and Agency of Record campaigns. We have laid a solid base for this team and are continuing to build out our technologies to support full agency level services for both our advertisers and our publishers. These services allow our partners to do what they do best – drive traffic on the publisher side and monetize traffic on the advertisers side – while we worry about everything in between!
Who is a major influencer for you?
I tend to analyze everything and take influences from all around me, all of the time. If I had to pick one person, I would say Missy Ward is a big one for me. She started in this industry 10+ years ago and has not only been extremely successful, she has built a brand around herself.
You get 1 free pass to any tradeshow, which do you pick?
Well now that I am totally entrenched on the network side of things, I am definitely going to say Affiliate Summit West. It’s the show that the most publishers go to, which is the core side of the business we are working on expanding at this time. We sent 9 people this year and I was worried that it would be overkill, but it ended up being just right! I feel that Ad:tech has gotten too big to be productive and I honestly skipped NYC this year because I was still working on new business from Affiliate Summit East! LeadsCon is fantastic if you are looking to expand your advertiser base and it’s small enough that you will meet the right people.
How can you get the most out of that tradeshow?
Having clear objectives in place before you arrive is definitely important. If you are new to the industry, I recommend having at least half of your schedule filled with meetings and spending the rest of the time seeking out new people. Don’t just focus on the exhibitors, as there are also lots of great companies that do not exhibit… booth duty is brutal and that’s what the name tags are for! Make sure you bring a fine tip Sharpie so that you can write notes on peoples’ business cards. And finally, take full advantage of the night life and plan on having a lot of fun. You will meet just as many people out at the afterhours events as you will during the day at the show.
What publications and blogs do you recommend for people to read and why?
Is this a trick question? Of course, Performance Insider! I am also a member of a ton of Facebook groups and keep an eye on the headlines that are posted in there, so I wouldn’t say any one publication or blog in particular jumps out at me. It’s important to keep up with industry trends and also be aware of emerging markets and not put yourself inside a box that will be outdated and irrelevant six months from now.
As a female in the industry, do you ever feel overwhelmed by all the testosterone and strip club adventures?
I am the type of woman that will take a day out fishing over a day at the mall any time (weather permitting)! I think in this day and age and especially this industry, that gender biases are only going to affect you if you allow them to. There are plenty of extremely successful women in this industry. Do we have to work a little harder to prove ourselves? Yes, some of the time…. So what? Personally, I see it as a challenge and that drives me to push even harder. As far as the strip club adventures… I prefer them over a loud and packed night club. You can usually find me at one during the tradeshows, especially if I am out with the FFC!