Affiliate Summit West Interview: Ace Advice for #ASW17 from the Inimitable Missy Ward


Affiliate Summit West is just a few short days away! If you’re an affiliate marketer, or looking to become one, #ASW17 is a MUST-ATTEND conference. For those lucky enough to have scored a ticket to the sold-out event (SOL? Check out Affiliate Summit East later this year), there’s A LOT to look forward to. Session topics cover all manner of modern marketing, from SEO, content, social, influencer, mobile and video, to metrics, attribution and more. There’s also sessions designed for affiliate business owners covering entrepreneurship, productivity, negotiation and compliance, among others.

AIMCLEAR founder Marty Weintraub keynotes #ASW17 on Monday, Jan. 16, at 11:15 a.m. His presentation will highlight the brave new world of marketing, in which tactics are blurred more than ever: Social channels are actually big display networks. SEO can be purchased with sponsored content that search engines somehow index. Lookalikes and retargeting often outperform top-of-funnel psychographics. Marketers run cutthroat search PPC campaigns to curated social audiences and retarget filtered by financial qualification, intent data and other psychographics. PR and SEO are inexorably wound and native advertising disrupts. Targeting is explicit, distribution ubiquitous, retargeting pervasive and filtered.

Marty’s talk, “Social? Psychographics? Data? SEO? PR? Content? PPC? What the Hell is Marketing Now ANYWAY!“, will demystify the new, blended universe of search and social, paid and organic marketing, with a special spin for affiliate marketers.

Affiliate Summit West kicks off Sunday, Jan. 15, at the Paris Las Vegas Hotel. Beyond Marty’s keynote, we wanted an insider’s advice on how to get the most out of this venerable event. We asked Missy Ward, Affiliate Summit president and conference organizer extraordinaire, to share the deets.

missy-ward-and-addison-english-bulldogAIMCLEAR (AC): First off, could you tell us a bit about yourself, Missy? How did you get started in affiliate marketing and what are you up to now?

Missy Ward (MW): I got my start in marketing back in 1988 when I was hired to do paste-ups (the way pages were laid out before Quark, PageMaker, InDesign, etc.). 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.

It became my job to figure out how they did it and make it happen for us. 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.

Currently, I’m the Co-Founder of Affiliate Summit Inc., which owns Affiliate Summit, Performance Marketing Summit, FeedFront Magazine, AffStat Benchmark Report, and I also own a handful of niche websites that are monetized using affiliate marketing and run Affiliate Marketers Give Back, an organization I founded back in 2007 that raises money for organizations that support breast cancer research, treatment, awareness and community programs through combined efforts within the affiliate marketing industry. I’m proud to say that, to date, we’ve raised over $625,000.

AC: Impressive, and for such a wonderful cause! As for Affiliate Summit, how did it come to be and how has it evolved over the years?

MW: There was an event called Affiliate Force that took place yearly from 2000-2003. It was on a cruise and was touted as a way for affiliate marketers to network and learn from other affiliate marketers. It was the only event for our industry, so I decided to attend back in 2001. While it was great to meet some of the folks that I’d been chatting with on various boards, it was more of a boondoggle than anything else.

During that cruise, I met Shawn Collins, who would later become my business partner in Affiliate Summit. Both of us discussed our frustration with the event and wound up volunteering to help with the 2002 event to see if we could help shape it by getting more big brands to attend and beef up the content. When the 2002 cruise rolled around, Shawn and I realized that we were responsible for getting most of the attendees on the ship, but were embarrassed at the content (which the owner would not allow us to help with) and all of the shenanigans that were going on.


It was immediately following that cruise that Shawn and I decided that if the owner of that event was going to keep blowing us off, we would just do one on our own. And that’s how Affiliate Summit was born. We went into it having zero experience planning an event. We figured, let’s just try this. Let’s just make something good for the industry.

Later that year we held our first event at Baruch College, which had 200 attendees. That was followed by our one and only cruise event the following year, which sold out. We realized pretty quickly that scaling the conference would be next to impossible by continuing to have it on a cruise, so in 2005 we went back ashore, and we have stayed there ever since.

Thirty-seven conferences later, we’re now a three-day, four-track, three-trade-show-floor event with 100+ speakers, 300+ exhibitors and 6,000+ attendees who are the most innovative marketers around.


AC: We can see how a cruise ship event would be difficult to scale, not to mention… rowdy… Good move reshoring the conference. 😉 Speaking of, Affiliate Summit West is sold out — again! Why does it sell out time after time? What makes the event so special?

MW: When we first came up with the idea for Affiliate Summit, we knew we wanted to create an event that we would enjoy attending and get a lot out of business-wise. But, we also didn’t want to have tunnel vision, so we rely heavily on the wisdom of our attendees and our advisory board and are especially thankful to those who have been there since our humble beginnings. We’re an extended family at this point since we’ve all grown up together in the industry. It always makes my heart feel full when I see so many of my family members at each of our events.

AC: What advice do you have for first-time attendees?

MW: We have a Newcomer Program in place where we pair up first-timers with Affiliate Summit veterans who have volunteered to be part of the program. Pre-conference calls take place between the two parties to help the newcomers optimize their time at the conference. We then host a newcomer event on Sunday where all participants can mix and mingle. Unfortunately, the deadline to apply for the program was Dec. 31. If you missed it, you should definitely take advantage of the First-Timer Orientation hosted by Shawn Collins on Sunday morning at 10 a.m. He’ll be giving out advice on how to get the most out of your time at Affiliate Summit… and some goodies.

AC: Can we get a sneak peek? What’s your number one tip for getting the most out of Affiliate Summit?

MW: Take advantage of our conference networking app to arrange meetings before you get to Vegas. Once you’re there, don’t sit in your hotel room! Leverage every minute over the three days to meet as many attendees as you can and then follow up as quickly as possible after the event. If you didn’t get to meet the person that you wanted during the conference, you could use the networking app after the show to connect. Lastly, if you’re an introvert like me, come to my Networking for Introverts session on Saturday at 5 p.m. I’ll be sharing my strategies for meeting new people and becoming a more effective networker.

AC: Right on! On the flip side, what’s the biggest mistake people make when coming to the conference?

MW: Two bloopers immediately come to mind. The first mistake would be staying at a different hotel other than Paris. It’s so much easier to have your hotel room just an elevator ride away when you want to do a quick recharge or drop off some show swag. Plus, there are so many other networking opportunities available in the elevators, restaurants, lobby, bars, etc. when you stay at the conference hotel.

The second mistake is “overindulging.” Vegas has a lot of nightlife to offer, but it’s best to keep yourself in check if you want to achieve what you came out for.

AC: Which sessions at Affiliate Summit West would you NOT MISS, even if Angus Young walked into the lobby?

MW: If Angus walked through the doors of the Paris Hotel, I’d probably be arrested for pushing my way through his security to get a selfie and would miss the rest of the conference. But, if I didn’t wind up in jail, it would have to be Marty’s keynote. I’m going to take all the credit for selecting him to speak when the attendees are blown away by him. I’ve been a fan of Marty’s since we met and I heard his story. I can’t wait for him to share it with our attendees.


AC: The admiration is mutual. 🙂 As “queen bee” of affiliate marketing, what advice do you have for marketers looking to pivot into affiliate world? What skills should they have?

MW: It’s so much easier for folks to jump into affiliate marketing today than it ever was. Bloggers can easily integrate affiliate marketing into their blog posts, product reviews, newsletters, etc. and not have to wait for companies or public relations agencies to approach them to promote a product. Affiliate marketing also allows them to earn incremental revenue for as long as the blog post is up, rather than a one-time small sponsored post fee or a sample of the product.

If you can copy and paste HTML into a blog post, you can get started. One word of caution, though: affiliate marketing is not a get-rich-quick scheme. There is no foolproof way of integrating it into your marketing efforts. Like any business, it takes time, effort and optimization to succeed.

So, I guess I should say that the number one skill required is stick-to-it-iveness.

AC: Finally, we hear you like love wine. What’s in your glass at the mo’?

MW: Ummmm. Who said I was drinking wine while answering your questions? OK, you caught me. I am a huge fan of Napa Cabs, and at this very moment, I am drinking a bottle of Duckhorn Cabernet Sauvignon that I just received from my business partner as one of my gifts for my 50th birthday that’s happening while I’m in Vegas. Or, at least everyone says it’s my 50th birthday. I’m not entirely sure if that’s true. I may just be in a coma right now, and this is a terrible dream.

AC: Mmm, so jealous. Happy birthday! We look forward to lifting a glass with you.

Thank you so much, Missy, for taking the time to share these tips. We can’t wait for Affiliate Summit West. See you in Las Vegas!


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