Stan Ivanov is the CEO of Intelligence Media Group, an online marketing agency specializing in campaign management and lead generation. Prior to starting his own company, Stan was my colleague working in the Marketing Department of a large global corporation. I still remember the early days in 2009 when Stan asked me all sorts of questions about online advertising during our lunch break and I proudly watched him evolve to become a successful affiliate and eventually being his own boss.
1) When and what was the turning point for you to become a full time affiliate?
I was never fond of the corporate world and I was always looking for ways to escape the rat race. I have tried many different business models (if you could call it such). I have sold DVDs on eBay, bed sheets and duvets on Craigslist, car audio equipment on online auctions, etc. None of those venues were consistent enough to replace my full time income.
Five years ago, I held a marketing job at a large corporation. There, I met this wonderful girl Wendy who later introduced me to her fiancé Geofferson, who just happened to work for an affiliate network. Over a few shots of Grey Goose, Geoff told me about the performance marketing industry. He explained to me how the industry works, told me Nicky Cakes’ story as a motivator, and later gave me links to a few forums and introduced me to a couple of people in the industry. Six months later, I had fired my boss to start my own marketing agency and never looked back.
2) What advice do you have for media buyers that want to make it their full time business?
If you are trying to make it as a full time affiliate, I suggest you stick to two principles: put all of your eggs in one basket and start small. You can diversify later, but in the beginning it is vital to learn one traffic source and get one small win – this will build up your confidence and your bank account. Many people who are starting out will never find that small win and decide that this industry is not for them.
How can you improve your chances of success? For starters, stay away from the big verticals and big payout offers. It takes a much smaller budget to optimize a $2 offer than it takes to optimize $150 offer. So, try to target offers in $2-$5 range outside of very competitive verticals like Dating, Diet, Education, and Loans. In the beginning, you just won’t be able to complete with the big boys. They have higher budgets, better payouts, and better payment terms. Avoid playing in their sandbox. For now, focus on offers that don’t have a ton of competition.
Once you have decided on an offer, research what your competition is doing. Find out how others are running similar offers and look for opportunities to add more value than your competition. After completing this research, pick one reliable traffic source and commit as much of your money to that traffic source as possible. The only way you are going to really learn is by losing money in the beginning.
3) How important has networking and attending industry conferences like ad:tech and Affiliate Summit been to your success?
Conferences were quite important in the beginning. They made me realize that I am not a lonely media buyer, but am actually a part of this growing industry that is constantly evolving. Lately, I haven’t been attending too many conferences, which I regret. I now have my pass to ASE in August and am really looking forward to going. Affiliate Summit and ad:tech gave me a motivational boost and I loved the opportunity to meet my existing partners. All kinds of great things end up happening when you have dinner with a person face to face – beats the hell out of Skype chats.
4) What marketing tools have you used or paid for? How have competitive intelligence subscriptions like WRW helped you with your strategy?
At the moment, I am paying for iMobitrax, which is a great tracker that I highly recommend. I am a paying member at IMGrind Forums and I subscribe to WhatRunsWhere, which is a fantastic intelligence solution. My team had tried a number of spy tools, but WRW by far gives the best bang for our buck. It just saves us lots of time when researching new traffic sources or campaigns. When looking at new opportunities, we can run a few queries in WRW and understand what the competition is doing and how we can possibly do it better.
I have seen a few novice affiliates fall prey to the idea that it is possible to replicate what competition is doing and become profitable. Even if it is possible, it’s certainly not a sustainable business strategy. Instead, use that intelligence as a starting point. For instance, I know my designer uses WRW when he runs out of inspiration for new creatives.