Affiliate Marketing has a Woman’s Face: Missy Ward, Sarah Bundy, Maryellen Garasky

Affiliate Marketing has become a multi-billion dollar industry with the appearance of digital advertising networks, blogs, social networks, and recognition by major brands. New technologies, tracking capabilities and the growth of data push forward communication between advertisers and affiliates.

But there is still a lack of highlighting the professionals in Affiliate Marketing who are building the industry, or changing it right now. And in many cases, it’s women who are working behind Affiliate Networks, Programs and Communities that bring affiliates together.

Read the next article: Affiliate Marketing has a woman’s face: Tricia Meyer, Rosalind Gardner

Missy Ward, Co-CEO of Affiliate Summit

Missy Ward has launched Affiliate Summit back in 2003 with Shawn Collins. She started to work in Affiliate Marketing before that in 1999 and tried all sides of the industry: working as an Affiliate Manager for merchants and networks, and sole affiliate herself. Missy marketed DRTV products, travel, software, health and beauty, electronics, office products and services, and home goods.

How did you start working in Affiliate Marketing?

Back in 1988, I was hired to do paste-ups (the way pages were laid out before Quark, PageMaker, InDesign, etc.). Many companies and job positions later, I was a VP of Marketing for a start-up here in Florida. One day back in 1999, one of the owners came into my office so excited about this new thing he heard of where this company had these virtual, independent consultants that marketed the company’s product on their own, with no expense to the company. The best part was that the company would only have to pay those independent consultants a commission if they made a sale. He was referring to Amazon, and it was their Associates Program.

It became my job to figure out how they did it and make it happen for us. Since then, I’ve sported lots of hats in this industry including those worn by advertisers, affiliate managers (for both individual merchants and networks) and affiliates.

In 2003 I co-founded Affiliate Summit Corporation with my business partner, Shawn Collins on with a $400 investment, which grew from a small gathering of a few early adopters into a highly-respected global conference series, hosting thousands of attendees yearly. In 2017, Clarion Events acquired Affiliate Summit Corporation, and I remain the Co-CEO. I also still run a handful of niche affiliate websites and invest in companies within the industry.

Can you tell us about the most important episodes of your career?

There have been many highlights in my career, but I guess the one that I’m most proud of (besides Affiliate Summit) was starting Affiliate Marketers Give Back, an organization I founded back in 2007. AMGB raises money for organizations that support breast cancer research, treatment, awareness and community programs through combined efforts within the affiliate marketing industry. I’m delighted to say that, to date, we’ve raised over $625,000.

Which verticals and areas of Affiliate Marketing do you work with?

Because I’ve worked on all sides of the industry, you name the B2C product or service; I’ve probably tried it at some point; either marketing it myself or managing it through a network. I only work with companies that have been around for a long time and run affiliate-friendly, compliant offers and programs.

After all the experience, what can you say about Affiliate Marketing?

I started when this industry was in its infancy. It was the Wild West back then, and let’s just say that best judgment by affiliates and merchants was not always used. But that’s changed dramatically over the years.

Brands are showing an even greater interest and investing in our performance-based, trackable, multi-billion marketing channel. Couple that with all of the technology innovations and marketing platforms currently deployed and still in development and that’s a recipe for a very bright future.

Tell us the story of your highest CTR.

I’ve had amazing success marketing DRTV products throughout the years, but the one that I’m working on now is blowing it out of the water. So… I’m not sharing yet!

Can you share about failures that you had in Affiliate Marketing?

Although I won’t share the brand name, my most massive failure stemmed from marketing a product that I didn’t research properly. Now, I always advise affiliates to make sure they’re not endorsing something that is being marketed using false claims; is being investigated by organizations or trade groups, or is simply plain old junk. Not only can you wind up in legal trouble yourself, but it can destroy your online reputation.

What tools should an Affiliate Marketer use?  

Although I haven’t switched to it yet, I finally previewed Affluent Analytics (Affluent.io), and I’m in love. In fact, I’m mad at myself for not using it already. It allows you to view all of the critical data related to the affiliate programs you’re marketing in one spot rather than having a gazillion tabs open and copying and pasting stats into a spreadsheet. It can save you hours and helps you spot winners and losers a whole lot quicker.

What do you need to be good at Affiliate Marketing?

The number one skill required to be successful in affiliate marketing is stick-to-it-iveness. There is no magic bullet nor foolproof way of integrating it into your marketing efforts. Like any business, it takes time, effort and optimization to succeed.

If you weren’t an Affiliate Marketer, who would you rather be?

Wine is one of my passions, and I love sharing my wine knowledge with friends, so I guess I’d shoot for being a Master Sommelier.

Sarah Bundy, Founder & CEO of performance marketing agency, All Inclusive Marketing Inc.

Sarah is an award-winning business and digital marketing thought leader, ranked in the Top 40 Under 40, Top 100 Fastest Growing Companies in Canada, Top 100 Female Entrepreneurs in Canada, and Top 40 Digital Marketing Strategists of 2012. She is recognized as an expert in performance marketing by the New York Times and is listed in the Top 50 Industry Players and Most Influential Affiliate Marketers of 2018. Sarah’s company, All Inclusive Marketing (AIM), also won the 2018 Global Excellence Award at the PMAs in London for setting the standard of excellence in affiliate program management worldwide. 

How did you start working in Affiliate Marketing?

When I was fresh out of college, I got a job at Clearly.ca (also known as Coastal.com), working under the wing of then-founder and CEO, Roger Hardy. I was hired as the sales manager for the call centre, helping the call reps be successful at cross-selling and up-selling customers when they called in.

Within three months, the call centre sales grew by 26% (which, for a multi-million dollar company wasn’t insignificant). At that same time, they decided to part ways with their then-affiliate manager, and asked me to take over the affiliate program too. Not knowing what that was, they said it was like running the sales division, but working with “affiliates” who worked on a commission basis only.

It took me six months to figure out what I was doing and how all the moving pieces worked together, but found that once I got it, I loved it and was really good at it because it combined all my interests in sales, marketing, analytics, strategy, customer service, growth and leadership. That was back in 2004. I’m now into my 15th year as an affiliate marketer.

Can you tell us about the most important episodes of your career?

Being taken under the wing of Roger Hardy was the first big break in my career, because I got to see first hand how to create a strong culture of success, build a brand from the ground up, engage and grow a high performance team, learn the e-commerce and affiliate marketing spaces, understand how consumers in the US and Canadian Markets behaved, and enhanced many people and leadership skills that I didn’t have before joining his team.

Later, when I set out to build All Inclusive Marketing (AIM) from the ground up, I found that I used every skill that I had learned while at Clearly, while pushing myself to focusing on our purpose, vision, mission and core values which drove growth.

Which verticals and areas of Affiliate Marketing do you work with?

Our focus has been and remains the eCommerce, Retail and Travel & Hospitality sectors, because of my personal expertise in these areas when we started, and because there are still many gaps in these two markets.

The e-commerce sector alone is continuing to grow double digitals each year on every populated continent on the planet, and the travel sector is a trillion dollar industry that has limited expertise in the affiliate marketing space. We consider ourselves strong and well versed in both of these areas, so will continue to service them at a level of excellence we expect of our team and brands.

After all the experience, what can you say about Affiliate Marketing?

My favorite thing about the affiliate marketing space is that it is ever changing. I am the type of person who thrives off of challenges and change, thinking on my feet, hungry to learn and grow, and bringing opportunities to those around me.

Affiliate marketing allows us to do that in every way, from the types of relationships we have with publishers, to the discovery and implementation of new technologies, including AI, to consumer behaviors changing rapidly each year. Many people can’t keep up with all the moving pieces and don’t like the change, but that’s what I find exciting and refreshing about it.

People who thrive in an ever-changing, fast paced environment, who love data and people combined, and are creative problem solvers would do well in the affiliate marketing space.

Tell us the story of your highest CTR.

My greatest personal accomplishment was building a company that became a PROFIT500 Company, won Company of the Year out of 400,000 small businesses in British Columbia, and was recognized as a Global Excellence Award winner within the Performance Marketing space worldwide. Why? Because it took a village to accomplish these things, and it’s our team and the people around me that make all the difference in the world. Being able to build something of substance where people can align, want to contribute and grow together is something meaningful to me. And most importantly, we have done it by staying true to ourselves, our core values, our brand promise, and each other.

Can you share about failures that you had in Affiliate Marketing?

I went through an unfortunate stage of having an ego and assuming I was always right. It created some uncomfortable situations with people I loved and admired, and changed our relationship. Fortunately, I have grown since then and have learned how to listen, which types of questions to ask to better understand others, and have further developed my communication skills to communicate ideas and convictions more clearly and objectively. In a business where relationships matter, these are things I had to learn the harder way, but am glad I did, because I’ve come out a better leader, business person and friend in the end.

What tools should an Affiliate Marketer use?  

A few tools in the affiliate space that people might want to look at are Affluent, Trackonomics, Mediarails, Publisher Discovery, and Brandverity, to name a few.

What do you need to be good at Affiliate Marketing?

An open mind, the ability to analyze data objectively, a creative approach, strong relationship skills, strong communication skills, and the desire to act on great partnership opportunities!

If you weren’t an Affiliate Marketer, who would you rather be?

A spa and travel writer… which I can still do in affiliate marketing, so not sure that counts!

Maryellen Garasky, In-house Brand Affiliate Manager

Maryellen is managing the Affiliate Program for Jane.com and is working mostly with content creators, promoting B2C products. She leads the team that won an Affiliate Summit Pinnacle Award for Merchant of the Year in 2018.

How did you start working in Affiliate Marketing?

I got started as a blogger and content builder. I ran a hyper-local blog about my resort hometown and included affiliate links in my content. From there I went to work at an agency where I managed affiliate programs on behalf of our clients. I now work in-house at Jane.com.

Can you tell us about the most important episodes of your career?

It’s hard to say. I’ve had so many wonderful experiences and met so many great people that it’s difficult to choose. Recently, however, I would say it was winning the Affiliate Summit Pinnacle Award for Merchant of the Year in 2018.

Which verticals and areas of Affiliate Marketing do you work with?

I work with many different kinds of affiliate partners. From cash back sites to deal sites to bloggers to social influencers. But, if I’m honest, I love content builders best. Having gotten my start there, I don’t hide the fact that they are my favorite category of partner to work with. I understand that “always on” mentality and the grind to make things move.

After all the experience, what can you say about Affiliate Marketing?

I simply love it. I love the people. I love the job itself. I love that it takes equal parts people-person and data-nerd and that it changes from moment to moment. I love the freedom it gives me to support my family. My daughter is a competitive swimmer and I take her to practice every day. I can work from the pool deck and be just as effective there as I am when I’m in my home office.

Can you share about failures that you had in Affiliate Marketing?

While I got my start as a publisher, I didn’t do very well. In fact, I look back now and can list off the things that I did wrong. However, I can tell you that it actually helps me manage our program. I think my sincere desire to help others is obvious. At least that’s what I’ve been told. There is a certain amount of tenacity needed to succeed in affiliate marketing. I didn’t have it then. I do now.

What tools should an Affiliate Marketer use?

Should use = PrettyLinks Pro (no, I’m not an affiliate, no I’m not paid to endorse).

Should use = Microsoft Excel (to analyze what your customers are buying and trends – seriously, Excel would run the world).

What do you need to be good at Affiliate Marketing?

Equal parts people-person and data-nerd. Let’s be honest, people like to work with people they like. Be likeable. Be honest. Be transparent. Be bold, but be nice about it.

As far as data-nerd, think about it… this is performance marketing (emphasis on “performance”). You need to know what your customers are buying, how much they are buying, how often they buy, where you are getting your best EPC, etc. etc. etc. If you don’t know these kinds of things, chances of you getting paid a sustainable income are pretty slim.

If you weren’t an Affiliate Marketer, who would you rather be?

Innkeeper on Kauai with my husband running our family style restaurant and my daughter running our cafe. Maybe a surf shop. Seriously, this consumes our conversations.

Read the next article: Affiliate Marketing has a woman’s face: Tricia Meyer, Rosalind Gardner

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