If Affiliate Summit is not on your bucket list, it should be!
I have to thank Missy Ward and Shawn Collins the founders of this lively event that has opened doors and connected me with incredible people from around the world. It will do the same for you as well.
I was one of 6,000 people– the largest by far – who attended the annual Affiliate Summit West conference in Las Vegas in January. And, it’s Vegas, so how could you not have a great time. But, if that’s too close to the holidays and New Years, then there’s also Affiliate Summit East held in New York City at the end of July. Each conference is an opportunity to learn from the pro’s, make new friends and greet old ones.
Affiliate Summit Co Founder Shawn Collins
After chasing him down for 2 days, I had a chance to talk with Co Founder Shawn Collins at Affiliate Summit. It was only a matter of logistics, but I finally caught up with him. As my 11-year-old would say “he’s everywhere at the same time.” When I originally asked to talk with Shawn, I thought I might get the story that’s on his bio. That was not the case. Thank you Shawn for sharing some of your stories. I’m sure you have many more shocking and entertaining stories to tell.
Q: What does it take to put on an event like Affiliate Summit?
Shawn Collins: Some people think it’s 3 days of work and six months of vacation, but it’s really non-stop. It takes about a year to plan. We have some processes down because it’s 13 years old, but it’s really non-stop. A couple of years ago we also added in some small regional shows that we call The Performance Marketing Summit. We’re done it in Boca Raton, San Francisco, Austin, Salt Lake City and Denver. We’re looking at also going internationally.
Q: Does Affiliate Summit sell out and where do attendees come from?
Shawn Collins: We had over 6000 people attend in Vegas. Tickets sold out early. Our Sponsorships and Meet Market sold out by September. We had a big wait list and nobody was canceling. The passes sold out in December. We had over 65 countries or so represented here. We’ve got people from Australia, China, South Korea, India and Japan. The New York conference is slightly smaller, maybe 5000 people. There’s less of a european crowd in New York because I think a lot of them are on vacation in August. Plus, I think a lot of people just like coming to Vegas.
Q: How did you get your start in Affiliate Marketing?
Shawn Collins: In College I never took a business class or a marketing class. Before Affiliate Summit, I never created any kind of event, so everything we’ve done here we’ve made up as we went along.
I got into Affiliate Marketing back in 1997. I was working in magazine publishing in New York City and was very bored siting in a cubicle with spreadsheets and just wanted something different, so I answered an ad for a company that was trying to emulate Amazon, but with medical books. They wanted someone who could create their affiliate program. So I literally just joined the Amazon affiliate program two weeks before that so I knew some of the jargon. So I was able to go in there and was like oh yea banners and conversion rate, and they’re like oh this guy knows what he’s doing and they couldn’t find anyone else who heard of affiliate marketing because it was just in its infancy. So I was able to sort of bluff my way into that job.
With that position and the one after I was able to figure out ways to create affiliate programs. I got a book deal in 2000 on how to manage your affiliate program. And that led to more exposure, big clients and sort of avalanche from there.
I think it was a benefit that me and my partner Missy didn’t have event planning experience. People told us we were doing things the wrong way when we were getting started. It’s funny because a lot of conferences that were way bigger than us started doing things that we were doing that were considered the wrong way back then.
Q: When do you find time to write?
Shawn Collins: I have about 15 sites that I try to attend to as much as I can. Writing is my favorite thing. I like creating content, but I haven’t had as much time as I would have liked to because the conferences take up a lot of time. We have our FeedFront Magazine, so that is a way for me to indulge my writing. I just have a love for it. Everyone says that magazines and print are dead but we keep getting subscribers. Right now we have 45,000 subscribers that we mail to in the US and people are reading it.
Q: What would you tell someone who is starting out in the Affiliate Space?
Shawn Collins: A lot of people try to go for the highest commissions and the most popular niches, I just tell them to focus on something that they really care about. It’s a lot easier to stick with. So many times I’ve tried to create sites that I didn’t really care about and I do a lot of work and I just let them die because after six months I just didn’t care about it. So from the start just focus on a topic you really care about. It makes it a lot easier.
Q: Is there a magic bullet for success?
Shawn Collins: Patience. That’s the magic bullet.
Q: What do you look forward to most about Affiliate Summit?
Shawn Collins: It’s the people. It’s really a very caring, sharing industry. It’s like a family reunion. And the family just keep on getting bigger and bigger each time. That’s awesome! It’s just a fun group people .
Q: Ok Shawn what is one thing that people don’t know about you?
Shawn Collins: When I was in high school and in college I was a ticket scalper. I worked for a ticket broker in Northern Virginia. When I was in college I slept in two different cities on the sidewalks of the murder capitals of the world at the time in Washington DC and Richmond, Virginia. So I’d sleep out there for days at a time to buy tickets.
Q: Would you say that was your first business?
Shawn Collins: It was probably more instructive for dealing with human nature and business and sales than anything I ever learned in a classroom. I also learned about risk and reward. I’d be sleeping in sub freezing temperatures and dangerous neighborhoods. (Laughing) Do that and then get my payday. (Laughing)
Books By Shawn Collins
- Affiliate Manager Boot Camp
- How to Get the Most from Exhibiting at Conferences
- Successful Affiliate Marketing for Merchants
- Extra Money Answer: How to Create, Promote and Monetize an Affiliate Site
What motivates other Affiliate Speakers to Succeed?
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