Spotlight on Missy and Shawn! The Co-Founders of Affiliate Summit
Missy and Shawn talk through how they met, how the idea of Affiliate Summit came about, how it's developed over the years, their favorite speakers and highlights, and top tips for affiliate marketers.
How did you guys meet?
Shawn: We were both helping organize an affiliate marketing cruise conference called Affiliate Force and hung out for a couple of those events. Quintessential conference friends, and certainly a testament to the power of networking at conferences.
What made you get into affiliate marketing?
Missy: Back in 1988, I was creating paste-ups (the way pages were laid out before Quark, PageMaker, InDesign, etc), and that’s how I got into marketing. 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.)
He tasked me with duplicating what Amazon was doing for our company and I wanted to keep my job, and as such, I learned everything I could so that I could build a tracking solution, create an affiliate program, recruit affiliates and manage the program. 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.
How did the idea of Affiliate Summit come about?
Shawn: The two of us were frustrated with the vision for the Affiliate Force events and in spring 2003 aboard a cruise ship at one of those events we were venting to each other about the things we thought they should be doing differently. We shared these ideas and thoughts with the organizer and were rebuffed. About a month later we chatted on the phone (probably just one of a dozen times we’ve ever used the phone outside of conference calls) and began spitballing how we could create our own conference, despite the fact that we had no experience or money.
Where do you get your inspiration and knowledge from?
Missy: I love absorbing knowledge through podcasts because they’re loaded with innovative pearls of wisdom and easy for me to consume while doing something else, like working out or driving. Some of my favorites include Marketing School, Digital Analytics Power Hour, Marketing Profs, Marketing Over Coffee, and This Is Affiliate Marketing. My inspiration comes from all of the incredible marketers that are in this industry that I get to connect with through affiliate marketing communities and in-person events.
Shawn: It comes from all sorts of random places - lots of ideas that I brought to Affiliate Summit actually came out of listening to pastors and watching how churches made people feel a sense of belonging. Also, I’d observe how entirely different businesses did things in unconventional ways and try to apply them. Also, attending other events was a useful way to see interesting approaches in action.
Who has been your favorite speaker at Affiliate Summit and why? What did they talk about?
Missy: I love data, so it should come as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed Steve Denton’s keynote back at Affiliate Summit West 2014. I met Steve back in 2001 when he was an SVP at Linkshare. He subsequently became President of Linkshare and later GM of eBay Enterprises. Because of his roles within the organizations, he was in a unique position to provide rich access to proprietary affiliate marketing related data that I’d never laid eyes on before. It was fascinating to see stats first-hand on how the affiliate channel proves to be extremely robust when it comes to incrementality.
Shawn: Lots of the speakers we have brought in over time to keynote were authors or inspirational people who we really enjoyed and thought would be good to share their stories and knowledge with the Affiliate Summit crowd. My three favorites have been Robert Cialdini, Frank Luntz, Cory Booker, and Jim Bouton. The first two wrote fascinating books on harnessing psychology in marketing. Cory Booker was the Mayor of Newark, NJ at the time (now a US Senator and candidate for President of the US), and I got to know him in 2001-02 when I ran the website for his first campaign to become Mayor. And Jim Bouton was a former New York Yankees pitcher and entrepreneur. While Jim Bouton gave a stellar keynote, it was the time I got to spend with him before he spoke that was awesome - he told me story after story of his time with legendary baseball players.
How has Affiliate Summit evolved since it started back in 2003?
What trends do you think we can expect to see in the affiliate marketing industry in the next 1 – 2 years?
Missy: I read a forecast that said that 55% of households will have a smart speaker device by 2022. With the use of Alexa, Google Assistant, Siri, etc. growing that quickly, affiliate marketers will concentrate on strategies to capitalize on the way that people speak, rather than type. I also think we’ll start to see a greater focus on audio ads within the content that customers are consuming through their smart speakers.
What’s your advice for new affiliates?
Shawn: New affiliates can find advice in tons of places for the nuts and bolts of the business. Instead, I would tell them the two most important things for them to succeed are patience and persistence. Some people get into affiliate marketing to get rich quick. The reality is that they will get rich slow or never, unless they throw money at it, which can scale, but will more likely lead them on a quick path to debt. Instead, they should focus on organic, sustainable growth. It will take a while, but if they build something unique that solves a problem, and they refuse to give up, then they can find success in the industry.
What are your top tips on how to make the best out of your time at Affiliate Summit West 2020?
Shawn: Pre-networking is key - install the app and join the Facebook group to begin reaching out to fellow attendees and set up meetings during the conference. I can’t express it enough how important it is to do the advance work to secure meetings with your targeted prospects, because schedules fill up quick and early.
Also, work out which educational sessions you’d like to attend, so you don’t build in any conflicts with meetings.
When in Las Vegas there is a lot of temptation, and many people enjoy themselves quite a bit. However, if you are sober late at night with conference attendees you’ll find that many will freely talk about their effective tools and strategies. Go to Le Central in Paris Las Vegas and chat up attendees and you can learn a lot.
I would suggest to anybody attending for the first time to come to the First Timer Orientation session on the Sunday of Affiliate Summit West 2020.
Missy: Oh, we were such a hot mess back then as far as logistics go. Shawn and I honestly didn’t know the first thing about organizing a conference, so we did the best we could with limited resources to produce an event that we would want to experience. Filled with ideas and passion, we relied on the attendees feedback to help us shape Affiliate Summit into an event that provided the education, networking opportunities, and a chance to feel included in an industry filled with people who might sometimes feel isolated because they work from home or their friends and family don’t understand what they do for a living.
Over the years, we remained true to our mission, and with the help of our attendees, we’ve grown to become the premier, must-attend conference and tradeshow for the affiliate marketing industry. In 2017, we were acquired by Clarion Events, which helped us achieve our goal of taking the event international.
Affiliate Summit West 2020 will be our 50th Affiliate Summit event and will feature 100+ speakers, 300+ exhibitors, and 6,000+ attendees who are the most innovative marketers around.
What are your highlights from the Affiliate Summit shows this year?
Shawn: My highlights are not typically organized sessions or events, but rather the people. The attendees are what make the conference, and the various get-togethers are wonderful catalysts for meeting up with conference attendees.
The excitement of meeting new people, as well as reconnecting with longtime industry friends is always my favorite thing about each Affiliate Summit. Over the years many people have likened Affiliate Summit to a family reunion, and I completely agree. One key difference is that these people understand our industry chatter and we want to be with them.
Missy: I completely agree with Shawn here. Over the years, so many of our attendees have become great friends and even business partners in other endeavors. So, Affiliate Summit for me is like a family reunion, but better because I actually want to spend time with the folks that attend ;-) Getting to connect with smart marketers that get me, through drive-by hugs to deep, meaningful conversations about challenges that I may be able to help with, is always the best part of any Affiliate Summit.