The affiliate industry has a lot of opportunities to grow from the employer to the owner of group of companies. Here is the brightest example of this way of growing - Emanuel Cinca, sharing his experience in industry. Check the interview and get inspired!
How can you identify yourself in the industry?
My name is Emanuel Cinca, I’ve been in the affiliate industry for over 4 years, where I had the typical roller coaster ride with ever-changing trends. I met a lot of great people on this ride though, so not regretting it at all. Some people might have seen me on the STM Forum or speaking at conferences.
How did you get into affiliate marketing?
Just over 4 years ago, we had to pivot our business here in Vienna. One of the co-founders was burnt out and wanted to leave. That meant we couldn’t continue with our plan of being a software development company. We wrote down a list of options after talking to people in our network and in the end, we decided affiliate marketing is the thing to try. It worked out so we didn’t go through other things on the list, haha.
Of course, we are curious about your working experience in STM. How long you were working there? Did you catch some superheroes’ skills? How do you think yourself, why STM is the largest affiliate community in the industry nowadays?
I worked there for just over one year, first as a moderator, then as the Head of Business Operations. It’s hard to pinpoint one thing I learned there but the experience did show me how to think about a product built for the industry, how to better manage a team and generally made me more confident in my own judgment.
STM is probably not the largest community actually, right? It’s the biggest premium community, but there are many free communities bigger than STM. This status was earned over many years of delivering a great experience on the forums, bringing great tutorials and having an “always-on” mod team.
That’s something of a lesson for everyone: it doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time to build something like STM.
So let’s talk about “What The Aff” now. How the idea of this project came to you? Was it so hard to start? How did you get your team, start budget and email’s list of course? The last one is the most nosy detail ;)
After I quit my role at STM, I was experimenting with a few own products but none of them really stuck out as very good. I then ran into Morning Brew, a daily business newsletter that was very catchy. It was actually an enjoyable read.
I searched if there’s anything like that for marketing and there wasn’t… So I thought we could try and build it. We started internally just with a Google Doc, then with about 10 friends as “beta-readers", then we started spreading the word.
We got our first subscribers by posting on social media and by asking a few friends to give us a shoutout to their followers. We got a few people sending emails promoting WHAT THE AFF and all of a sudden we had like a thousand people reading it every day!
When it comes to the team, at the beginning I was doing a lot of the writing. It was only many months after, once we saw we can actually have a business model behind it that we looked into hiring people.
For a starting budget, it really depends how known you are in the industry. I think one important part for this is that I was known enough that I could ask some people for favors to promote WHAT THE AFF. I also understand the industry enough to speak the lingo, to add those insider jokes and so on. We made WHAT THE AFF as a product we’d like to read. I think our followers can notice that!
If you are less known and have fewer connections, you need more money to do paid shoutouts. If you are well known, you might just need $200 or so to pay for your tools for a couple of months. You do need time because you write regularly.
For anyone reading this and thinking “I want to start a newsletter business too”, you should consider what topic you are passionate enough about to write regularly. You then have to consider how hard it is for brands to reach those people who’d read your content because that tells you how much you can make with advertising.
So, for the starting budget part, it depends, as always. You sometimes need a few hundred dollars, but I think it’s safe to say you should have about $2-3k and plenty of time.
What will happen with the project in the next 2-3 years? Do you have the plan on how to develop it?
There’s a vision for where the project should be in 2-3 years but I wouldn’t call it a concrete plan. We’ll adjust with new info we have regarding the industry and based on user feedback. The overall vision is to have this as the marketer’s “Wall Street Journal”.
In other words, if you want to stay up to date with everything marketing, you read our newsletter, just like people into finance read WSJ. How we do that exactly is not something I can predict. It’s a lot of trial and error.
What is your main breakthrough and the biggest challenge in the industry?
The biggest breakthrough has always been understanding the dynamics between all sides of the industry: advertisers, affiliate networks, affiliate, traffic source, etc. Interests are not always aligned so if you’re aware of that, you can manage your risk and improve your relationships.
When it comes to the biggest challenge, keeping up with fast-changing conditions. It’s an extremely dynamic industry, what made sense 2 months ago might not be good today anymore.
Generally, what’s happening with email-marketing in the affiliate industry in 2019? Many people say it dies, do you agree?
OK, first I wanna clarify that we’re not doing typical email marketing with WHAT THE AFF. We’re just using email as our publishing medium. We’re essentially like a marketing newspaper that you read while drinking your morning coffee or having lunch. Then you get up to date with everything relevant for the day.
For most cases, email is just a medium to reach the audience. If your emails are something people actually want to read, it’s far from dead. It’s just not the quickest and cheapest way to start, you need to spend some time and money on gathering a list, nurturing it, trying to monetize somehow, then optimize to be profitable.
In other words, email marketing has a higher barrier to entry and requires a different compared to running push traffic for example.
Speed section: your highest income, your best and worst cases, who’s the best in the industry? Just numbers and names ;)
Close to $10k in a day when all stars aligned.
Biggest fail probably not getting paid low 5 figures by an advertiser.
Best in the industry: can’t answer, the industry has many sides to it and there’s nobody who comes close to mastering them all.
What can you advise for newbies to earn first $1000?
Depends how much money they have already. Push traffic is a good one to begin with, it’s basically what pop traffic was a couple of years ago. You need some money to test, optimize and reach profitability though.
But if you don’t have money, work online as a freelancer! Over the years, the one thing I realized is that people always forget this option. They say they don’t have money to buy traffic, they need income soon and with low risk… So the obvious answer is to work a few freelance gigs in the industry. There are plenty of them available.
What are the biggest highlights in affiliate marketing this year you can identify?
Push traffic. Everyone’s talking about it and it starts to get to Google’s attention too. So this year we have seen an explosion in popularity for push, hopefully, we don’t see the decline just as quickly.
Oh, and some big-name networks disappearing, like Mundo Media. Definitely a big one for the year, so far.
If one day you would switch your profession field, what it could be?
I’d probably look to apply my skills at a tech startup. I have a reasonable understanding of tech, I’ve gained a good amount of marketing skills, plus I’m used to working in small, dynamic teams that just need to get things done.
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