It has been a while since I did my last interview or blog on here for that matter but what a way to kick in the holidays with a marketer extraordinaire, Evan Lovett. I have gotten to know Evan over the past few years and I can honestly say he is one of the very few individuals I trust and respect in the industry. Doesn’t sugar coat anything, just tells it like it is. He is the consummate professional and a total food snob so I thought you guys would enjoy this so here we go.
I was a lowly sportswriter for the L.A. Times; I mean LOWLY – I was covering women’s golf & volleyball. The pay was in the high $20’s, and I just wasn’t stimulated, and was burnt out on a half decade of covering sports. I wanted a change, and I utilized some contacts to derive an interview at SportSkill, which promised to utilize my writing talents in Public Relations. Turned out that SportSkill was a division of the Vendare Group, and the rest is history.
In joining FlexMG, what was the primary objective?
Aside from ownership at FlexMG (Michael/Paul), which is outstanding, forward-thinking, family-oriented and generous, the company had been a top partner of mine since 2006. I’d noticed the consistency in both traffic quality & volume for six years straight, no small feat in this business of ersatz heavy-hitters that disappear for months at a time. There was a stability involved in the partnership that went further than performance & revenue, however: these guys remained poised and calm even when a drop went awry, a link broke, a campaign went down or any of the myriad nuisances that otherwise cause publishers to overreact. It was this genuine confidence in themselves and their business that was most appealing. The fact that they OWNED data, traffic, mailing infrastructure, technology and had an outlook beyond “tomorrow’s drop” that sealed the deal. And yes, they started the Ad1 Network at a time where everybody else was closing their doors – that took balls, but it also took vision. They realized that just having traffic and leveraging advertisers for high rates wasn’t enough; they needed somebody like me to come in and build properties and implement a model that would be both sustainable and unique. As I provided Flex with a unique revenue opportunity since my Bardon days, the fit was natural & complementary.
Accordingly, we now are able to provide REAL VALUE as publisher AND advertiser. And that, along with our continuous growth, gives me confidence about the business and about our future.
Describe some of challenges that you faced in the industry in your early years and some you continue to face now.
The challenges in the early years involved time management, fighting over nickels and fraud. Time management is still a chronic issue because work budgets work, and the more effort you invest, the more of a commitment you’ll need on a daily basis. It’s truly a challenge of running your day, and not letting your day run you. Fighting over nickels is mostly a thing of the past, but from ’03 – ’09, the options were so voluminous for affiliates, that the difference in catching a whale and ending up with an empty hook could be offering $0.05 more on payout. Truly a fool’s chase and a waste of time for everyone involved. Fraud will always be an issue but advertisers, networks & technology have advanced to the point of competency, where the ‘cost of doing business’ from a fraud perspective is negligible, given proper utilization of tools, balanced with experience. An emerging issue is the embrace of mobile and the direction of consumer experience, and how to navigate within that paradigm as the industry keeps evolving.
Is it realistic to expect an agency such as Flex to have a significant impact within the industry with regards to how it does business?
Unequivocally and I wouldn’t have moved here otherwise. The attrition within the industry over the past 18 months has been astounding, but not if you’ve been paying attention to the landscape. It’s been clear since about 2006 that there was a saturation of networks, and that fraud had been the prevailing traffic source for many of these pop-up shops. With the demise of many companies, both big & small, the proverbial dust has settled and the companies that can provide true value are beginning a period of regeneration and ‘new’ growth. Flex is one of those companies, and being that we own both our own traffic and campaigns; we’re uniquely positioned to have an impact on the future of affiliate marketing.
What truly sets you apart from the other networks/agencies?
That we’re also one of the biggest mailers in the entire space; that we’ve assembled a team of 10-year+ veterans in key positions that understand their roles and are tirelessly motivated to accomplish our goals & achieve success; that we understand our own model to such an extent that we are self-reliant, rather than relying on the vicissitudes of affiliate marketing.
What are the key elements of the success Flex has incorporated as its mantra?
Hire slow and make sure you’re people are quality. If you have a winning formula, keep riding it. Realize there will be mistakes, but learn from them and do not repeat.
How will you drive growth and scalability over the coming years? What is the role for social media?
Growth & scalability will be derived through sending unique, quality traffic to unique, quality advertisers and continuing to embrace our niche in online marketing. Social Media is an enigma; it is of paramount importance to have a presence, but what is the absolute value in that presence? We have yet to really figure that out, and it’s about a ‘C’ priority for us. It will not go ignored, but right now our priority is focusing on the business itself and allowing our business to go viral through an old-fashioned channel: word of mouth.
What trends do you see emerging for 2013 and how have you positioned yourself to take advantage of that trend?
Mobile adaptation is absolutely key to what we do. We’ve already aligned our business in anticipation of this trend and are capitalizing as we speak.
2012 was an interesting year with the demise of so many “Tier 1” networks do you think trend this will carry over into 2013? Who will be the next to go?
I will not mention specific names but I truly believe that networks without their own traffic, campaigns or both have no choice but to either adapt or fail.
Who are some of the people whom you hold in high regards in this industry? Why?
The people I hold in highest esteem are those that are honest with themselves and their partners. As the affiliate network space continues to shrink, those that can admit their limitations & focus on their strengths are the companies with whom we choose to work. Not all partnerships are successful; the important element is being able to recognize that the timing was not right and walk away with the ability to reconvene when circumstances chance. The partners we hold in high regard are willing to be honest and carry themselves with integrity during dealings whether or not they generate multitudinal revenue.
Finally – any tips for my readers on what it takes to succeed in this industry?
I was just discussing this with my wife today, literally: success in affiliate marketing takes an indefatigable spirit, an endless reservoir of energy, an immense appetite for multi-tasking and a short memory. Intelligence, wit, cleverness, problem-solving & mental acuity, adaptability & agility are tantamount, but the ultimate factor is the willingness to work hard through all obstacles. Every challenge is surmountable, all partnerships are possible and business is yours if you want it enough.