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  1. #1
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    Vertical discussion areas.
    This may have been brought up numerous times before I joined or may be another newbie dumb-ass idea or, even worse, it exists and I haven't found it here. I would like to see a major category created in similar fashion to the Affilate Tax Issues, with the listing of all the states, where the title might be something like Affiliate Verticals and the sub-categories would be the sector/category titles that are typically used by the major networks.

    For example, I am in the Food & Drink sector and would like to have a forum for affiliates that are involved in the various areas within that catagory such as gourmet and specialty foods, nutrition and health, etc. I have heard a lot about how affiliates, especially some super affiliates, won't share their knowledge or input with affiliates that they view as direct competitors in the same verticals out of fear that they will dilute or lose business. To most people that makes perfect sense. Experience, however, shows the exact opposite is true.

    It may be wishful thinking, but I expect that participants and observers alike will benefit because the issues in each vertical are far larger than any one affiliate's business. Remember, "A rising tide raises ALL ships."

  2. #2
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Lou, good point and something we will put on our task list. At a time that we are looking to reduce the number of forums I am not sure how to properly implement this. That said you have a great point and something that has come up before.

    Would like to know what other members think about this?

  3. #3
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    Making money
    Chuck,
    I figured it wouldn't take long for you to see the post.

    Affiliate marketing is about making money, preferably the white hat way. It seems to me that whether a forum stays or goes is determined by a number of factors. But chief among them is whether or not it assists the members to make money in their business. The generic topics are well covered, SEO, etc. I would hope that some would like to drill things down a little deeper into their specific areas of interest or the verticals that are their business.

    In the Food & Drink ( Gourmet) vertical, the industry is dominated by ignorance of affiliate marketing as a channel. There are a limited number of strong merchants using affiliate marketing.

    On the affiliate side, this business, at best, follows the 80/20 Rule. 80% of all revenues are generated by 20% of the affiliates. My bet is that it is closer to the 90/10 Rule. In order to attract the highest caliber of merchant you have to have the highest caliber of affiliate and a lot of them and visa-versa. Goes both ways. Catch 22. Forums that provide a means whereby more affiliates get stronger through engaging each other in their verticals will bring about a magnet effect which will attract stonger merchants and more of them as we prove to be a more viable channel over conventional marketing. In the end, everybody wins.

    I can't speak for others, but for me... an old West Virginian once said to me that he'd been around a lotta years and "I still ain't got it all knowed up."

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick View Post
    Lou, good point and something we will put on our task list. At a time that we are looking to reduce the number of forums I am not sure how to properly implement this. That said you have a great point and something that has come up before.

    Would like to know what other members think about this?
    I think no. You know how many different verticals there are? It'll be a bunch of new forums that nobody posts in or rarely. You can always have your regular post and just tag it up.


  5. #5
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    I think the last thing ABW needs right now is to further segment the discussion...



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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trust View Post
    I think no. You know how many different verticals there are? It'll be a bunch of new forums that nobody posts in or rarely. You can always have your regular post and just tag it up.
    Actually, what I said in the original post was that the verticals could be contained in the relatively standard "categories" that are typically used by the major networks. Therefore, the number of catagories would be an amalgamation of between 20 and 40 categories since CJ=30, Linkshare=21, PepperJam=32 and ShareASale=39. That's still less than the 50 states listed in the Affiliate Tax forum. My posts would be contained in the Food & Drink category since my vertical is gourmet and specialty foods. That is the reason that the networks have categories so as to group merchants of like or similar interests.

    That being said, I would suggest that we try an experiment, a pilot program if you will. Make a list of the major catagories that are listed by networks that I referred to. Subject that list to a members poll to vote for the categories that they would join if available. At the end of the poll, take the top 3-5 categories and use them in a pilot program to gauge the reception of the concept. That way we let the data speak just as you do with your keyword research. I can promise you that my Food & Drink will not be among the top 5, but maybe your area of interest will be.

  7. #7
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    Boom or Bust
    To Boom or Bust:
    I find your signature of the definition of Chutzpah to be most intriguing. If this is your guiding creed one needs to take care that it doesn't render you a meshugana.

  8. #8
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    quantum115 - I will ditto what Trust and Boom or Bust posted. I don't see this being all that beneficial for ABW. If I want to find merchants for particular verticals, as you said this is already offered through the networks. To me, what you are suggesting would just be an organized directory of merchants that wouldn't warrant any discussion.

    Just my early thoughts on the idea but will be happy to vote should Chuck decide to take up the suggested pilot program.

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  10. #9
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    Quote Originally Posted by msladybug View Post
    quantum115 - I will ditto what Trust and Boom or Bust posted. I don't see this being all that beneficial for ABW. If I want to find merchants for particular verticals, as you said this is already offered through the networks. To me, what you are suggesting would just be an organized directory of merchants that wouldn't warrant any discussion.

    Just my early thoughts on the idea but will be happy to vote should Chuck decide to take up the suggested pilot program.
    The purpose of these forums as I stated before is to discuss issues that are particular to the specific category. The last thing I want to see is a list of merchants with AM programs. AffiliateDB and other directories do a poor enough job of that as is. In fact I would hope that specific affiliate merchant discussions would not enter into it so as to avoid having the forum turn into a "stitch and *****" session.

    To be as specific as it appears it is necessary to be here, I will use my vertical as an example. Having recently returned from the major Fancy Food Show in Wash. DC, it was interesting to see the countries and companies that were there and the products that they were emphasizing as the current consumer demand items for the holidays. Consumer demand is kind of important right? I have no problem discussing this and other industry topics. I see absolutely no reason for any mention of merchants with networks or indies. And if asked a question regarding a specific merchant, I would prefer to PM my response. Where do you get your industry intel? Magazines? Internet? Newspapers? "D" all of the above. The question is what does that intel mean to you as an affiliate in that industry? What is the take on it by other affiliates in the same vertical?

  11. #10
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    Thanks for providing a clearer explanation of what you are purposing. From what you are suggesting, I see this as a place for:

    1.) Spammers
    2.) Merchants trying to gain free advertising by talking about their own niches/verticals in hopes of making contacts (PMs) with potential new affiliates. If merchants want to do that, they need to advertise on ABW or have a forum of their own here.
    3.) Affiliates not participating because they will not share their niche trade secrets.

    How I gain the edge over other affiliates that share the same niche is my business and not open for discussion. In other words, I do my homework as an affiliate and don't need to be spoon-feed the information. My guess is most veteran affiliates feel the same way.

    I've shared my point of view on this and will see how other affiliates feel about the idea. It may turn out great so it will be interesting to see how it goes.

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  13. #11
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by quantum115 View Post
    take care that it doesn't render you a meshugana.
    You have to be a little meshugana to succeed in this business and a bit of chutzpah keeps forums lively... What say the phantom?



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  14. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by msladybug View Post
    Thanks for providing a clearer explanation of what you are purposing. From what you are suggesting, I see this as a place for:

    1.) Spammers
    2.) Merchants trying to gain free advertising by talking about their own niches/verticals in hopes of making contacts (PMs) with potential new affiliates. If merchants want to do that, they need to advertise on ABW or have a forum of their own here.
    3.) Affiliates not participating because they will not share their niche trade secrets.

    How I gain the edge over other affiliates that share the same niche is my business and not open for discussion. In other words, I do my homework as an affiliate and don't need to be spoon-feed the information. My guess is most veteran affiliates feel the same way.

    I've shared my point of view on this and will see how other affiliates feel about the idea. It may turn out great so it will be interesting to see how it goes.

    As to your first three point, they are all completely valid and in keeping to some degree with what I see in a number of the forums already. So that part would be nothing new.

    As to your point about gaining the edge over other affiliates in your niche and not sharing, not needing to be spoon fed and your belief that most veterans feel the same way, I would absolutely agree that your sentiment is probably the most commonly held among affiliates. It is also explains in part why affiliate marketing is viewed as being on the same level as MLM or network marketing by many and why the number of CPS merchants using the affiliate marketing channel is infintesimal to the pool of legitamate prospects. Affiliate marketing has not yet achieved mainstream in the Sales & Marketing community. Question: What do you do? Are you an affiliate marketer or are you an online sales and marketing professional. There's a big difference and not just symantics.

    I still feel that you completely missed the point of the proposed forum and the type of discussion that I am targeting. If you are correct as to what these forums would attract then the concept will die very quickly and be a sad memorial to the level of critical thinking in the industry. As to your three primary points of characterization, the solution to the first two is why forums and discussion groups have moderators. They are the gatekeepers and with the number of blackhat morons in affiliate marketing, they are needed. Your third point is always going to be present. There are those who engage and there are the "Looky-Lou"s. There are those that mentor and those who monitor. The question is whether or not a moderator can attract enough legit participation, keep them continuously engaged at a high level and keep out as much self serving distraction as possible. Even now, that is the challenge facing ABW and Chuck's administration.

    In the end, I sadly must admit my concept is probably ahead of its time given the status of the affiliate marketing channel. It is like an adolescent trying desparately to grow up, mature and flourish. Trying to be accepted into the mainstream as credible. But the child of the past is still there to impede progress by its fear of progress. It is the human condition. If the industry doesn't grow out of its current adolescent stage, it will remain on the same level as MLM. I worked in MLM for several years back in the early 80's. 30 years later the only thing that has changed is the technology. Affiliate Marketing does not, should not and hopefully will not suffer the same fate.

  15. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Boom or Bust View Post
    You have to be a little meshugana to succeed in this business and a bit of chutzpah keeps forums lively... What say the phantom?
    "Indeed, Mr. Holmes. Quite right."

    "What say the phantom?" Funny you should ask. Actually, I played the role briefly back in '94 before I switched from the Broadway stage to the opera stage. Never liked that high A flat in "Music of the Night". There is a YouTube music video somewhere of me doing Music of the Night produced in '94 by Full Sail while I was out sick for a week. Having the flu is not conducive to a good performance. Even the sound engineers couldn't save it.

  16. #14
    ABW Ambassador I.M.O.G.'s Avatar
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    msladybug, trust, and boom or bust hit the nail on the head for why I've seen this suggestion turned down each time I've seen it come up in the past... I've read a couple past threads with similar suggestions. From an overhead view, if you look at all the forum structure - it is primarily built around the technical fundamentals that make up affiliate marketing. It focuses on this nuts and bolts stuff because that is the stuff affiliates are interested in collaborating on. The mutual interest stuff actively discussed is tax matters, SEO, datafeeds, analytics, resolving network grievances, etc.

    When given the choice between a stagnant forum that gets 2 posts a day, or an active forum that gets 50 posts a day, most people will go to the more active forum because they expect to get more input, better answers and get them sooner. By segmenting activity over a hundred sub-sections, the segmentation effectively manufactures stagnant sections. As soon as a thread isn't listed under "today's posts"... It's lost, unless someone picks through 1 of 100 other forums and stumbles across a recent discussion they have a comment on. The sheer number of forums is unmanageable for most members to frequent regularly - most people frequent 3 or 4 subforums on a daily basis, and typically a max of 10 on a weekly basis. Everyone uses today's posts to see what is active right now though.

    We've also been looking at combining and condensing forums, and haven't been actively considering additional sections. If we combined the Affiliate Legal Lounge and Affiliate Marketing Business Issues, the resulting forum would have about 30 active threads this year - you could look through all of them on a single page. Why keep them separate? Keeping them separate may help finding and reading older legal discussions (reference), but looking stagnant does not encourage new discussion or lead people to expect good/quick answers (engagement).
    Matt Bidinger
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  18. #15
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by quantum115 View Post
    Never liked that high A flat
    The high A flat took me by surprise. All considered, I thought you hit it quite nicely. I concluded you were really playing hooky...



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  19. #16
    OPM and Moderator Chuck Hamrick's Avatar
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    Lou, I hate to see an idea beat down but these are ABW gatekeepers plus Matt who has extensive forum experience. How about starting a thread discussion in the Midnight Cafe' forum on gourmet and specialty foods, nutrition and health? If the thread sustains a conversation we will look further into how best to categorize it.

  20. #17
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    Got It
    IMOG: Thank you for that explanation of the orientation of ABW being oriented toward the technical aspects of affiliate marketing. In that light, I can easily see why my suggestion and those similar to mine in the past would be resoundingly rejected. And thus my idea will meet the same fate... DOA.

    What is interesting to me is to see how affiliate marketing is very much like Wall Street in certain respects. On Wall Street you have two primary forms of securities analysis: Fundamental and Technical. The fundamentalist believes that all the answers lie in the company's financial reports. They believe that technical analysis is like reading tea leaves. The technical analyst believes that the answers lie in the charts. They feel that the fundamentalists are studying historical facts which have no bearing on predicting the future performance of the company. They believe that stocks like human behavioral science is predictable by studying its previous patterns of movement.

    Affiliate marketing has two similar divisions: the technical marketer (SEO etc.) and the sales oriented marketer. ABW caters to the first according to your comment. The other camp is populated by people like me that believe that all the technical stuff is fine and necessary (and for those us non geeks, somewhat daunting) but what happens once they get to your site is where the rubber meets the road. Rule #1 in business: Nothing happens 'til somebody sells something! If you are simply routing traffic from your site to a merchant, then you are at the mercy of that merchant's site, its navigation, selling content and ultimately its conversion rate, regardless of how good their product is. To me, I would rather do everything in my power to presell my site's visitors and close the sale on my site such that the merchant becomes nothing more than a transaction fulfillment center. To the extent possible, other than brand, I want to take the merchant out of the sales process such that in the end they function more like a drop-ship program. Then their conversion rate is of less importance and the most important concern I have is how well and user friendly their shopping cart processes the transaction.

    I expect many or even most people here will disagree with me. But keep in mind, the Internet has only been around publicly for 17 years. I was using the Blue Fido BBS on the Internet for two years before the Internet was opened to the public in '94. But sales & marketing people have been around a lot longer. There is the shotgun, mud-on-the-wall approach and the rifle shot (sniper) approach. I suspect the really successfull affiliates find a blended formula that takes those elements of each approach that work for them in their sector.

    As for me, I'll just continue to live and learn.
    Last edited by quantum115; August 17th, 2011 at 02:37 PM.

  21. #18
    ABW Ambassador Boom or Bust's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by quantum115 View Post
    I expect many or even most people here will disagree with me.
    ... Correct.
    The successful affiliate populous cannot be characterized by such general terms and relegated to those categories.



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  22. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chuck Hamrick View Post
    Lou, I hate to see an idea beat down but these are ABW gatekeepers plus Matt who has extensive forum experience. How about starting a thread discussion in the Midnight Cafe' forum on gourmet and specialty foods, nutrition and health? If the thread sustains a conversation we will look further into how best to categorize it.
    Chuck:

    No problem. After all these decades it is not the first and certainly won't be the last idea that I've had shot down. There is nothing wrong with presenting an idea that is ultimately turned away. There is a lot wrong when there are no ideas to discuss, debate or otherwise engage.

    I will think about your suggestion. I like it in concept. I just want to plan how to launch it and sustain it such that it will provide a benefit and have at least a remote chance of having legs.

  23. #20
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    I think you have a good idea here, but reading through the thread, one thing jumped out at me:
    Having recently returned from the major Fancy Food Show in Wash. DC, it was interesting to see the countries and companies that were there and the products that they were emphasizing as the current consumer demand items for the holidays.
    This is exactly the type of information I wouldn't share with the competition. Perhaps I'm not as generous as the next affiliate (!), but if you take the time to research products and trends, I don't see why others should benefit. This is exactly what sets one site apart from another... presenting timely and relevant information, and anticipating what consumers will look for.

    Publishers need both technical skills and street smarts - my competition is the tech guy who develops industry knowledge, AND the industry guy who develops tech skills.

    If I had some new insight into consumer demand, I wouldn't share..

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