I Bleed Affiliate Marketing – An Interview with Todd Farmer

ReveNews and the Performance Marketing Association want to celebrate the glorious diversity of affiliates that make up the growing affiliate marketing space. We recognize that there are many different types of affiliates and they all provide value in their own particular way.  

Their business come in all shapes and sizes and they all have different reasons for getting into the space. Some affiliates are in it because of the “affiliate lifestyle,” which allows them to work from home, be their own boss and work the hours they choose. Others want to build companies and have (or are working towards) creating long- term business that employees dozens of people.

Regardless, one of the most fun parts of being in this industry is hearing the unique stories of how each person came to affiliate marketing – many by accident, some via a clear marketing career path – and what they do to make affiliate marketing work for them.

As they say on Law and Order…these are their stories…

Todd Farmer’s Twitter tag line says, “I bleed affiliate marketing.”

That pretty much sums up his passion for the industry. While he considers himself to be a consultant and educator in the affiliate space, he also has more than a dozen affiliate websites.

“I have to walk the talk if I want to be credible with affiliates.”

But credibility isn’t a problem for the former CEO of affiliate tracking provider Kowabunga.  He has a proven track record, including ten years as CEO of Kowabunga before selling it in 2005 and then staying on until 2008. He’s also a frequent speaker at industry events and even took home the 2011 Affiliate Summit Award as Affiliate Marketing Industry Legend.

So how does a successful CEO running a multimillion dollar business focused on providing technology to merchants, transition to stay-at-home dad (with two kids) running B2B and B2C affiliate sites?

Pretty smoothly it turns out.

“I now work from home. I spent so many years at the office and seeing the kids only before I left for work and for an hour or so when I got home. Now it’s reversed. I get them up, take them to school, pick them up from school and in between are my set work hours.”

He admits that once in a while he gets excited about the prospect of starting and growing a big business again, but then recognizes the home and family sacrifices that would need to be made and realizes that affiliate marketing and teaching are more satisfying.

“At Kowabunga I was focused on being the provider of technology, yet I had ambitions and ideas and desires to create different projects and never had a chance or the time to do them.”

And while it sounds like running a successful business and knowing the technology would provide an advantage to him as an affiliate, he admits that he came into the whole thing “a little bit cocky.”

“I thought I knew everything and now I would just have to do it. But that wasn’t the case. Affiliate’s have a very wide skill set and thought process. They are nimble; they see opportunities and jump on them. It’s not just a matter of making a site scale and letting it go. This is a hands-on operation.  It’s fun, but it’s not easy.”

At Kowabunga he had a very different perspective about affiliate marketing and says that now as an affiliate he feels an even deeper connection to the industry.

That perspective, had he had it back during the Kowabunga days, might have changed the direction of the company a little. “If I knew then, what I know now, I would have changed some of the direction of the company in terms of products and services and focused more on the affiliate. Ultimately that would have helped the merchants. “

Now as an affiliate he is working on a few pet projects that combine his love of affiliate marketing, helping people, and building websites. His flagship project is Affiliate Marketing Plan, a site where affiliates and merchants can get more information on being successful and learning best practices. He uses hands-on advice and has created a video training series to demonstrate concepts from the basics of how to get started as an affiliate to monetizing, using search and everything in between.

One way he’s proving out his concepts and sharing with others is helping his 11-year-old son, Evan, build an affiliate site. He loves spending time with his son and sharing his passion for affiliate marketing with Evan, but he’s also documenting with video and blogs every step of the process of creating an affiliate site from scratch from the back-end setup to completion.

The project, called VideoGameKid.com began as summer project for Evan. Affiliate marketing is a family affair. Todd’s wife, Theresa Farmer is the Chief Operating Officer at Optizmo and a veteran of the performance marketing industry.

Todd believes that imparting the skills of how to make a website would help Evan in the future—teaching him some additional technical skills and also lessons about commitment and follow through. “All of that is encompassed in affiliate marketing.”

Initial excitement on the part of the 11 year old, turned into procrastination and delays in doing all the necessary steps—like creating the content.  But as the two worked together and Evan began to see actual results, the excitement grew.

“Right now he is so excited that he was up past 12:30 a.m. on a Saturday night working on his holiday gift guide. The tangibility has given him more motivation. There is a sense of pride for him now.  But he also understands that he can make a little money with this as well.

“The other night he told me to make sure every product link in his gift guide was an affiliate link:  that was a very proud Affiliate-Dad moment for me!”

Todd is hoping that others thinking of getting into affiliate marketing will also be motivated by his videos of making the site with his son. “Maybe someone will think, if an 11 year old can do it, so can I.”

Part of Todd’s desire to help educate affiliates and merchants is also fulfilled through his role as an adjunct professor at University of San Francisco (USF), where he teaches Internet marketing and affiliate marketing to students online.

“Being an educator and teacher at USF is extremely fulfilling. I have students eager to learn. It’s so gratifying when past students call me up and ask me additional questions or thank me for helping them learn what they needed to get the job they wanted.”

That  experience has given him the confidence to help others and become a trusted source of information in industry that often has many self-proclaimed experts and gurus pitching systems and “get-rich-quick” packages to unsuspecting and eager would-be affiliates.

He tries to avoid being lumped in with the gurus, who, in his opinion, often focus more on selling and less on delivering value in the form of solutions and advice as he does. “Hopefully, people recognize the genuine nature of what I am doing.”

However, he admits that to get noticed beyond his circle of industry peers, where he is very well-respected, he’s got to learn a little more about selling.

“I love having great relationships with people in the industry, but that also limits your scalability. I need to learn to grow beyond that”

Todd sees performance marketing as a comprehensive, justifiable, and measurable business model that he believes will help him grow his business. “There is just no room for question. Merchants know how they will compensate affiliates; affiliates know how much they are being compensated, and everything is trackable. It’s a win-win for everyone getting into the space.”

And for Todd, one key benefit to performance marketing and affiliate marketing is deeply personal.

“I’ve been in a lot of industries and there are good and bad people in every industry. But affiliate marketing seems to attract the kind of people that I most relate with, and enjoy being around.

These folks have diverse skills and abilities. They are quirky, fun, nice, and genuine. They are also talented and entrepreneurial, business savvy, and they see opportunities and go after them. Those are great qualities and personally the kind of people I like to spend time with. In fact, many of these people have become some of my best friends.”

About Lisa Picarille

You can follow Lisa on Twitter: @LisaP.

4 Responses to I Bleed Affiliate Marketing – An Interview with Todd Farmer

  1. Innovationseo says:

    SMS Marketing – Awesome article..

  2. Billy Kay says:

    But affiliate marketing seems to attract the kind of people that I most relate with, and enjoy being around. That hits it on the head! Great article.

  3. Lisa, thanks for writing this article about Todd (and Todd for sharing it). I have a lot in common with these views too and understand completely where you are coming from. I’d love to sit down with you Todd when you have some time, maybe at summit this weekend and just really have a proper conversation with you. It seems that many of the people I relate most to in the industry are the ones I have yet to befriend. I’m happy for you that you’ve found your place and are continuing to grow. I finally have too, and it relates a lot to what you’ve said in this interview. Thanks to you both.

  4. Judy Caroll says:

    Hi Lisa, 

    I enjoyed this post and I also thank Todd for sharing his story with us.  It’s gratifying to have people like you who have the heart and passion to teach people what they needed to learn to get their job done.  And also I believe that when we accomplish our job in providing value to our customers, we all deserve to gain money from our business.

    Thanks for the nudge,