Women in Power: Trisha Hawthorne Doesn’t Back Down


Do you know anyone in the industry who has been with the same company for 15 years? Meet Trisha Hawthorne, the head of Cutting Edge Offers, the affiliate division of Cutting Edge Media. She’s been with the company now for over 15 years and help build the industry as we know it. As the VP of Cutting Edge Media, she is woman behind one of the most successful biz-opp companies in the industry, that helped define the entire vertical. If you’ve run biz-opp offers in the last decade, she had something to do with it. She’s also one of the 10 Great Women of Affiliate Marketing that you must get to know, if you are doing business in this industry. She managed to become one of the most influential people in our industry, while raising two children and building a family — plus not backing down from her strong beliefs and ethics.  In this interview, we were fortunate enough to hear what she honestly thinks about fraud, affiliate growth, how women are treated in the industry and more importantly how anyone can succeed.

How did you get started in the industry?
I was actually in nursing school when I was offered a sales position at Cutting Edge Media. Phil Longenecker, the founder/owner, was a family friend and during a holiday break I helped out around the office. They needed a sales rep and I wasn’t all that thrilled with nursing school, so I took the job selling ad space for the company’s business opportunity publications.  That was 15 years ago.  From there I was able to move up the ranks and when we got into the online space, Phil gave me a shot at getting it off the ground.   We initially started by working with the few networks that were around at the time, along with some direct publishers.  In 2002, we realized we needed to form our own network, so we started TheBizOppNetwork which was eventually re-launched as Cutting Edge Offers.

You’ve been with Cutting Edge Media for 15 years, what has kept you working for the same company when most people jump from job to job every few years?
Phil was an amazing leader, mentor and visionary, and I was fortunate enough to spend over 12 years under his guidance and leadership.  He constantly pushed me to be better and always gave me the freedom to take risks and make critical decisions for the company.  He encouraged everyone to work as if it was their company; that’s exactly what I did and is why I was so committed to CEM and to making sure it was as successful as possible.  Tragically Phil passed away in 2009.  Since then the company has gone through significant changes, but I feel that the reason we’ve been able to continue is due to the leadership and commitment to growth that he instilled in us.  I am just as committed to our team and our clients as he was.

How do you continue to motivate yourself, and the direction of the Network after all of these years?
I’m fortunate to be surrounded by people who are just as passionate about this industry as I am.  Bouncing ideas off the rest of the team as well as other leaders in this space keeps me motivated and energized every day. I also read a lot! Of course Performance Insider! There are some great niche blogs and tech blogs like Mashable that are very informative, and I’m always checking out industry sites and staying up-to-date on emerging trends.   And I think it’s pretty meaningful to be able to help an affiliate reach their goals and work with advertisers on creating a winning offer. Knowing that I can impact someone’s personal success motivates me every day.

What type of offers would you tell new affiliates just starting to try, and how would you recommend them being promoted?
It really depends on the type of affiliate, their traffic sources and their demographic.  I think that a big mistake some affiliate manager’s make is getting too attached to a ‘hot’ offer and assuming that a particular offer will work across all media channels and demographics.

I feel like the only way you can make recommendations is when you’re 100% integrated into their promotional habits, including what’s already working for them and driving their revenue. In some cases, that might mean working closely on the advertiser side to make the connection with the affiliate, which in turn, makes money for all parties involved.  I’m also a strong believer in educating the affiliates on the intricacies of an offer.  For example why certain advertisers require certain types of traffic, or why CPA’s sometimes may not match another offer that may ‘look’ similar or be in the same vertical.  I think the more knowledge an affiliate has regarding the offer and the advertiser, the better chance they have of long-term success

What advice would you give to a young woman starting in this industry?
Know your sh*t! I firmly believe in the adage “knowledge is power.” Make sure you know what the latest trends are, can identify the big players in the industry, and have a clear understanding of where this industry is going. You are in a position to directly impact someone’s success, and they will be looking to you for guidance, confidence and information. The biggest issue young women face is getting past the way the industry ‘used’ to be, which meant  you just had to be cute and smile and you’d be hired as an affiliate manager.  It’s a tough stigma to overcome, and it can be hard for a young woman to be taken seriously in this industry, but by having a vision of where you want to go and the drive and knowledge to back it up, you can absolutely become a respected leader.

How do you balance raising a family with being a high level executive at one of the top companies in the industry?
With lots of help! I have a great husband who I also happen to work with, so he fully understands the 24/7 mentality of this business, as well as the travel involved.  I also have a great family who is always willing to help.

Do you feel like women are pressured into fitting a certain image in affiliate marketing?
I believe that can happen in any industry. Affiliate marketing is a young industry and there are certain stereotypes about women in this business that I believe we are starting to overcome. And this is a direct result of strong-minded women who are smart and focused on the success not only of their company but of the industry as a whole. There’s no reason to let anyone else dictate who you are and what your role is as a woman in this industry. You have the power to decide on your own image; it’s your knowledge and actions that will set you apart.

Who are a few people that have influenced or inspired you in the industry?
There are way too many to name for this article, but I’ll go back to some of my original inspirations and say Mark Colacioppo, whom I met over 10 years ago and who taught me a lot when I knew very little.  Cruise Director Warren Corpus, who introduced me to literally everyone on my first Affiliate Summit cruise (most of whom I still do business with today), and of course Missy Ward, for not only being a great promoter of affiliate marketing and women in this industry, but for continuing to reinvent herself and expand her brand.

Do you feel the industry has matured since you started online?
Affiliate Summit started on a boat…..need I say more?  (Hopefully not, because I’m sworn to secrecy!)  In the ‘early years’, affiliate marketing didn’t get a ton of respect as a significant form of advertising. And if you were an affiliate marketer, it was probably just a hobby or, at best, a part-time/sideline money-making opportunity, but the industry has changed so much in the last few years and it’s great to see how it’s embraced by many as a full-time, professional business.

I’m not sure that back then we realized how quickly this industry would grow; we just knew that we loved what we did and we were excited about the future.  I believe that most of us still feel that way; we’re just a lot smarter and we’ve taken steps to ensure that we keep improving the reputation of the space to attract more stable, long-term advertisers and affiliates.

What do you see as one of the biggest issues in the industry that you’d like changed?
Fraud.  Unfortunately a word that used to mean an affiliate submitting fake information on a form, has now expanded to shaving leads, deceptive marketing practices, blatantly incentivizing prospects and the list goes on.  Self-regulation is critical to ensure our industry can attract larger, branded advertisers with substantial budgets.

Do you think the plethora of new affiliate cpa networks is good for the industry?
Assuming they have a unique value proposition, I believe that competition can help push the industry farther.  Unfortunately that is the exception, and it’s getting harder and harder to distinguish one from another.  There are also too many unscrupulous networks popping up that are giving the legitimate networks a bad name.
Where do you see the industry heading with social media, and platforms like Pinterest?
If you thought this industry has grown quickly already, social media is going to continue to drive it ahead much faster and in a shorter amount of time.  It’s an incredible tool for creating major traffic and brand interaction–Pinterest alone is hitting over 10 million users, with women accounting for 97% of Pinterest’s Facebook fans. Companies successfully using social media to generate traffic know that you have to put your own unique spin on it, be creative and have fun with it. That gets people to engage with your brand and share it with their friends/fans/followers.

What is your dream car?
I don’t have a dream car, I have a dream house.  Once I have that, I’m sure I’ll figure out what to put in the garage. ☺

What's your opinion?