The appeal of affiliate marketing seems to be the ability to make a good living with comparably low overhead. Most affiliates however just create a glorified job for themselves sitting 16 hours a day in front of the computer. This talk focuses on mindset and the strategies we used to get out of it.
Speech by Saber Aria | Founder & Managing Director, Seicho
Saber Aria Speech Transcript
Hello everyone, thank you for coming! My voice is a bit shitty, it was a bit hectic the past couple of days.
Can you hear me? Yeah.
We recently posted our story on STM. Got some attention. Newbie to 7 figures in one year. It’s our story.
There’s a lot of different ways to reach this. Basically, there’s a lot of people way more successful than us.
This is how we did it though.
Here we go. A bit about my background. I started my first business when I was around 15 years old.
Did this for about 15, 14 years. It was events management. Got to travel the world, got to experience a lot of stuff. And, got tired of traveling.
Started With E-commerce
In the meantime, I got involved in e-commerce. Did really well but failed really hard. We didn’t know what we are doing. Had no idea about distribution, payments. All this stuff, failed.
Successful but failed.
Had to shut down within like a year and a half or something.
But, the good thing was I learned a lot about marketing, online marketing. This was my first experience with online marketing, actually.
Moved on, did marketing consultancy for startups. Got to join a data analytics startup. Business intelligence startup.
My role was, I was in charge of all the marketing. The role I had was getting the exit for the company within 1 or 2 years.
We accomplished this within I think a year or a year and a half. Got an exit, huge takeover. I did not want to go the corporate route, so I decided I’m going to move to Bangkok.
Moved To Bangkok
Went to Bangkok, lived the Bangkok lifestyle for a year and a half, two years.
I was not making a lot of money of course while partying. Decided it was time for me to change.
Affiliate Marketing and Poker Players
A lot of my friends were doing affiliate marketing at that time. Or poker players or affiliate marketing. These 2 are somehow always get together.
They were going to STM London. I decided to just tag along. See where this goes.
Went to STM London, had no idea about campaigns, trackers, volume, whatever.
Got very motivated about what people were talking about. What the affiliates were talking about. One of my friends was rookie of the year and all this stuff.
The idea of online income, the way I had experienced it. I had a lot of headache with my e-commerce stuff, right?
These guys were having online income and it seemed like they didn’t have any stress. That seemed like it, for me.
I went back about a month, 2 months in. Finally got started. I had no idea what I was doing, right?
Where To Begin
Where am I gonna begin, postbacks, volume, all this stuff?
Luckily I had one friend named Trung. He was doing pretty well, he decided to help me out.
Told me what I should run my first campaigns, help me set up, introduce me to AMs.
This basically was my real beginning in affiliate marketing. I got my first partner. He was also very good at marketing. He was 20 years old, running 5 figures a month marketing consultancy firm.
Seemed like a perfect match. We ground for like, I think about 2, 3 months. Reached $50 a day. Felt awesome.
It wasn’t stable.
We couldn’t get it to go. We couldn’t keep it up. So we put in hours.
Grinding. We thought this was the secret sauce, we thought we were missing something, right?
Everyone around me was doing really well. It seemed like we were the only one not having success.
We decided to put in more grind. This was what we had to do. Hours, right?
Started working more, less social life, fewer friends, less partying, less everything. But we got it to 3 figures a day. Amazing, right?
But still nowhere near the success of my friends.
So, still missing something. More grind, right? More hours. No social life, no partying, nothing. 15, 16, 17 hours a day, working every day.
Still feeling like something is missing. Campaigns went up and down. How is it possible that this is happening to me, how is it not happening to my friends?
This was what we thought.
Finally, we reached 4 figures a day profit. This is 5, 6 months in. 4, 5 months in.
We thought we were doing really well and we found the secret sauce.
We have to put in the time. So the more time we put it, the more money we make. We should grow our business, we should get an office.
That’s what my friends are doing.
We should get an office. Get more employees. So we hired our first employees.
But, this was all too much for my partner. He was exhausted, he decided to stop. And, he had a successful business running. Decided to step back in a very small role.
This is when I found my new partners. Aaron and Alexei.
I found out that these guys all have a different skillset. Alexei has a technical background. Aaron is very analytical. He used to be a pro poker player.
So, this is a big difference with what I had with my first partner. We had a similar skill set. Right?
I thought this is a perfect match. But, we were not complimenting each other. There were no new perspectives. Everything was the same.
A bit better or a bit less.
When I have my new partners I reached the next level, basically.
Next Level: Work Towards The Business
The next level meaning we work towards having a business. We were not affiliates anymore.
With the new business, came establishing like meaningful relationships. We could finally add value to the masterminds we’re in.
These masterminds went from becoming friends, to partners, joint ventures, whatever. Everything started growing, everything started growing much better.
Because now I had a team.
Another example is, not only with our affiliates but with your affiliate managers.
One thing we realised, so these are basically the secret sauce points that we missed. This is what was missing all the time.
It wasn’t time. It was these things.
Relationship With Affiliate Manager
Relationships also with your affiliate manager, meaning not only looking at your affiliate manager as a window to the best paying offers or whatever. The top offers not just bombarding them with these questions.
But also thinking about, like, “Alright, how can I add value?”
They are adding value to you, right? You are getting all this money.
Of course, they are making money out of this, right?
But you are not actually adding value. They could just as well work with someone else. Of course, your traffic is more stable. Whatever the quality is good.
But you could add more value.
And I am pretty sure my affiliate managers who are here. They can vouch for me when I say, for example, when they have an offer that they need to run, they need someone to run this offer.
And I know it’s not gonna make me money. I’m gonna lose money on it. But they need it to get more apps.
They need it for the advertisers to be happy. I’ll run it, no problem.
Because I know the value that they are giving back is definitely worth it for me.
So, the way I’m treating my affiliate managers is very similar to friends, or partners. More meaningful than just, “Hey guys can you send me a list of the top offers?”
Securing Exclusive Deals
When we secured these first 2 aspects of it, we basically had funds to start working on our own tools. Our own software, growing this.
We found out that technology was one part that was also missing, right? These other guys were doing well. And one thing that was going well for them was the bigger guys.
I only compare myself to whoever is bigger than me.
They are all having awesome tech. We decided to focus on the development team.
Our development team is actually double the size of our media buying team. Just to explain how important tech is for our future.
Hiring For Growth
One problem we had was hiring. We hired the first employees.
Actually, we’re lost. We didn’t know why we were hiring these people. This was our mistake, right? These people did not stay. Or it wasn’t a good fit.
But that was because of us. We didn’t know why we are hiring.
This took us about 2 months to realise, alright, we are hiring, for example, because everyone says hire to save time and have them run campaigns.
We’re hiring, actually not because of their skill set. Skills and knowledge is really good and experience.
You can teach all these stuff
What’s more important is a vision for us. We hire purely based on vision right now. Whoever gets it, gets in.
We do not hire anyone who is like, “Oh yeah, I ran campaigns…”
This is not important for us. It’s a plus if they have the vision and they can do this. But everyone has to understand, the company is moving into this direction.
And everyone has to be able to make sacrifices for this. Or like, whatever we’re doing, we’re asking our employees to do.
Actually not employees, we call them team members. Because it’s a team for us, right?
Sweatshop Versus People Who Care
This brings us to our next point where it’s creating a sweatshop or actually hiring people who care.
Are we gonna hire, are we gonna set up a system with like 50 VAs and have them make banners and landers or whatever these guys do. And, micromanage this.
It’s gonna cost us all this time and or even put a manager on top of it, but it’s still gonna cost us a lot of time.
We’d much rather hire smart people who get what we’re doing. Who even, now that the whole or like half the team is now here in Berlin, we don’t need any communication.
Because all these guys know how to run this. Everyone knows what they’re doing.
We don’t need to intervene, we don’t need to do anything. They just send us an update.
The Hiring Process
The hiring process was a very good learning process for us.
One of my friends actually suggested that we get an in-house recruiter. The recruiter was probably the best thing we did.
We wanted to get away from day-to-day tasks. That was one of the reasons we were hiring people.
The day-to-day tasks being all the stuff that a company has to do like ordering monitors and all these random stuff that’s taking up all these valuable time.
But, hiring an employee is actually the same. We found the 3 best recruitment agencies. We had a lot of back & forth with them, we had like interviews. All these people came by.
And it took us 2 months to find the right recruiter.
This alone justified the reason for getting the recruiter in-house. Also, she was the first person that we hired purely based on vision.
We had about 10-15 people coming in, 10 years’ experience, 20 years’ experience, startups, leading 500 people in the company, etc.
None of them were good enough.
This girl had 2 years of experience but she immediately understood what we wanted to do. And that’s why we hired her.
Most Valuable Assets
What sets us apart from other companies or other people I see around me? The understanding of time.
I’m lucky that one of my partners is an ex-poker player. And these guys, they calculate everything down to the minute like their expected value, down to the minute.
So, if you say that your minute is costing you like $5. And, for example, you have to make a landing page. It’ll cost you like maybe 2 hours, 3 hours, I don’t know.
Hiring someone for $100 to make that landing page is a no-brainer. Instant hire.
This helped us a lot in decision making. Every decision is based on this, every decision.
The other thing is the mindset. Like I said, we hire only for mindset and vision. Skills, great if someone has them. But the mindset is what we want. Everyone has to be looking in the same direction.
We make sure all the employees, all the team members do have all the at least the higher level ones, right? They have the same mindset.
The last one is the team. We invest heavily in our team. What we wanna do, we wanna create an environment where none of them have to think about anything.
No pain from outside.
All the focus has to be on work. So food, drinks, whatever they want, whatever they want, it’s in the office. Fruits, vitamins, I don’t know.
We organise some sports, you know. Thai boxing or whatever (we’re based in Bangkok).
All these stuff are being done. Whenever there is time for it, we do it.
At the same time, this goes for equipment as well. Does someone want 3-4k monitors? No problem, get it.
It boosts productivity, it boosts comfort in the office, let’s do it.
All these decisions are also mainly based on this idea of expected value. Expected value is the most important thing we have.
What you see a lot in affiliates is that a lot of people, they work I think a lot of you know the cash flow quadrant?
But a lot of people, they move from being an employee somewhere to being self-employed, right? Because they want freedom.
And then they end up working 16/17/20 hours a day grinding really hard. And then they call it freedom. No social life, nothing.
We have been in this position. We actually recently started moving out of this position creating a system, doing all this stuff.
Moving from owning a job, to be owning a business, owning a system.
We Need A System
This is basically what has really made us successful in the past months like, we grew really fast. Basically, the idea of us needing a system. We’re not affiliates, we have a business.
The funny thing was when we posted our stats on STM. A couple of guys, I think, they had questions like why are you even partnering up, why are you sharing your money?
And, why are you getting employees? Why are you giving them profit shares? Stuff like that.
One of them even said I see affiliate marketing as selling weed to college kids.
It’s not our approach. You can see it that way but we’re building a business.
None of the businesses I knew thought of their own business as selling weed unless they were selling weed. No one thinks of selling weed to college kids.
That’s not how you and affiliates should not be approached in any different way. That is basically our mindset. And that’s how we grew this into a business.
Thank you very much, I’m Saber Aria.