Following what I considered to be an excellent line up of events in 2009, Supermondays got off to a flying start in January with another great event, in what looks to be a very promosing line up for 2010.
Having seen Tom Fotheringham of DFDS speak on search optimization and google ad words at the Newcastle University Digital Debate last year, i’d recommended that we get him in to speak at supermondays. So i was delighted to see him take the podium as the first speaker of 2010. I was even more delighted to discover that we was in fact not speaking on SEO (which he does really well, but i’d heard before) but on affiliate marketing, – another area that i’m interested in but have no real experience of yet.
As Tom gave us an overview of how DFDS have been using Affiliate Marketing to grow their online sales revenue and how it has become an integral part of their sales strategy, it was obvious that this was an area that he had some really expertise in, both from the point of view of the the advertiser and publisher.
The Advice for both parties was to understand what is is you want to achieve, to stick to your principles as well as your objectives, but to be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances and above all else to be fair to your partners.
The advice to affiliates was to concentrate on one or two areas of interest and avoid spreading yourself too thinly – but at the same time ensure that you had enough breadth to survive should one of your site or affiliate programmes take a downturn, and not to waste too much time on unproductive site. He urged potential affiliates to consider which merchants they’re going to promote and how that might effect your income and credibility and to look at instant returns verse lifetime revenue streams. Tom also reminded Affiliates not to sell themselves short and to demand higher commissions if you are one of the top affiliates on a program, alluding to the fact that many programmes have hidden commission levels.
There was also advice on how to make your affiliate site more successful, by being more creative, using things like video links and competitions to drive traffic as warnings on using things like Ad Words or spam which many merchants don’t allow.
As far as merchants go there was plenty of advice for them too, ensuring that you pick the right scheme for you and that you have the right tools to monitor and maximize returns. There was also advice on ensuring that affiliates were paid properly and promptly,apparently if your sales are coming from affiliates its important that you keep them on side or they’ll switch to another merchant or . Tom also talked about the need for merchant to keep an eye on what affiliate’s were up to and ensure that the merchants reputation was not being tarnished by an affiliate only interested in short term gain.
Second up was former visitor to the Dragon’s Den, “Crazy Ling” (aka Ling Valentine) of Ling’s Cars.
To prove that there is such thing as a free lunch, Ling provide Lunch for all, in the form of packets of noodles (granted they were 2 years out of date – but they didn’t seem to do @JohnCatn much harm when he dared to give them a try).
Ling’s somewhat colourful approach to online car sales certainly seems to be working well, and while she works very hard on coming over as being “completely Crazy”, she is obviously a very creative and very clever business woman as well as being a somewhat likeable character.
What surprised me most was learning that the whole “Ling empire” runs on a code generated by 3 students live on a single server, that regularly goes down a couple of times a week. On the other side of the coin though these 3 students have developed some pretty sophisticated back end stuff that they call Lingo and a user interface called Lingani that tells sales which customers are on the site, how often they have visited and monitors search terms and traffic sources to identify new leads. Another interesting aspect to Lings sales is that all sales are all chat based, with the entire sales conversation being recorded and forming part of the contract.
I couldn’t help thinking that Lings approach relies entirely upon coming up with crazier and crazier stunts to get attention and that there must be a limit to how far this can go, but i guess once she has broken into the market and got a reasonable customer list then she wouldn’t rely upon this approach quite as much. Its also obvious that this only works if your the only person in the market doing this, once there are several ling’s a “rubbish site” is no longer something to shout about.
Next months Supermondays will be welcoming, Leeds based PHP developer, speaker and blogger Lorna Jane Mitchell to speak on Web services, a growing area of application development and where they fit into our existing application architecture.