Conference Journal: AffiliateFORCE/2001

It was dubbed the “Booze Cruise” and the “Love Boat.” Whatever the moniker, AffiliateFORCE/2001 offered new insights, nonstop networking, and doses of serious fun along the way.

The Convergence

Day 1. Just over 130 of us converged at the Marriott Biscayne Bay in Miami last Friday. Delegates flocked from all corners — from the great states of California, Idaho, Nebraska, Ohio, New York, Florida, Georgia, Arizona, Texas, New Hampshire, and others, to more far-flung locales like Trinidad, South Africa, Brazil, the United Kingdom, and Israel — and there are still others I’m probably forgetting. Several affiliate delegates came as a result of winning tickets as top performers with ClubMom and GiftCertificates.com (more on that below).

After a morning of registration and workshops, we were whisked onboard Royal Caribbean’s “Majesty of the Seas,” where we set sail for our first port of call — Nassau, Bahamas.

Not long after boarding, conference activities resumed with the sponsors’ cocktail reception. Hats off to folks like Qool, AffTrack, KowaBunga! Technologies, and 10 other generous sponsors. After dinner, we reconvened for an evening of networking.

The First Morning After

Day 2 started at 8:30 a.m. Ouch. Reports of late nights in the casino, on the dance floor, and at the karaoke club were the rule. Still, the morning keynote by Brian Clark — founder, president, and chief production officer of GMD Studios and publisher of ReveNews — gave delegates reason to rise. He covered six lessons learned since AffiliateFORCE/2000. Several of his points would be echoed and elaborated on by other speakers: the pitfalls of poor communication, a reminder there is no such thing as a free lunch, and admonishment to “incubate” affiliates.

Making his AffiliateFORCE debut, Steven Vachani, founder, chairman, and CEO of Qool Media, detailed how he and his team are building Qool into a superaffiliate. From a standing start in September 2000, Qool Media is expected to reach profitability this month. Most of the talk centered on building a sizable membership base through word of mouth, developing a personalized email relationship with those members, and then using contests and incentives to increase performance-driven revenues. Stay tuned as Qool expects to do new things later this year.

The Second Morning After

Day 3 brought another 8:30 a.m. start. My keynote on “Performance Marketing Comes of Age” covered three points: where are we, what is performance marketing, and how can you profit. Adrian Blair of Ask Jeeves UK called on Porter’s five forces and, in the process, made an incredibly compelling case why now is the time for merchants to enter the U.K. market with a country-specific affiliate program. Michael Angier of Success Networks shared his experiences in building both a free and a fee-based email newsletter. One point many email senders would do well to remember: “Every message is a moment of truth.” Every contact either improves or erodes the relationship you have with your members.

Most of the delegation spent the afternoon on Coco Cay, a private island owned by Royal Caribbean. But by 8:00 p.m., everyone had washed off the sand and sun and arrived en masse for Affiliate Party 2001. Thanks to the generosity of Match.com and Affiliate Wire — a consortium of affiliate marketing publishers — we all imbibed. As with Affiliate Party 2000, this was the “see and be seen” event.

Back on Land

Day 4. After losing our sea legs, it was back to base camp at the Marriott for a few more workshops.

Overall, AffiliateFORCE/2001 was a tremendous event. My hat goes off to AffiliateFORCE Chairman Herby Olschewski for keeping AffiliateFORCE alive.

Plan Now for 2002

Start a contest this month with your affiliates. Figure out the cost of two conference tickets and two airline tickets — let’s say $3,000. Next, evaluate your margins. Perhaps in addition to your existing affiliate commissions, you could afford another five points of margin. Divide $3,000 by 5 percent. In this scenario, you could afford a $3,000 prize for every $60,000 in annual affiliate sales.

And so I issue my readers a challenge. I propose that 100 merchants (out of the 5,000 currently operating affiliate programs) run a year-long contest, with either an established sales threshold (e.g., $60,000) or a winner-takes-all approach and no threshold. Is your program up to the challege? If so, drop me an email. I promise lots of coverage and kudos.

P.S. Many of the presentations will eventually make their way to the AffiliateFORCE site. In the meantime, for a copy of my keynote, please email me with the subject line “Slides.” Include your company and title when writing.

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