Phil Shapiro, the founder of CPATrend made a great first impression on us when we started working together a couple years ago. When it's time to pay out, some affiliate networks turn into ghosts. Phil, on the other hand, used to hand-sign and mail each of our referral checks and EVERY single one came in on time. With such diligence to his affiliates we're not surprised that since then CPATrend has grown ten-fold and boasts the finest offers (and payouts) in the Dating, Credit Reports and Gaming niches among others. We caught up with Phil last week to get the goods on his success story and to hear his plans for increasing the bottom line of both his affiliates and his network.
You've been an entrepreneur now for almost a decade. Tell the story of how you built your business from scratch.
I started making money on the internet when I was 13 years old. When I was 18, I started an offline scrap metal company with my brother. At 20, I left this venture to pursue the creation of CPATrend. I had been an internet marketer part time for years and put my experience as an affiliate into my network. I did start with money, but I let the business build itself, rather than pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into it to make it take off. I was patient, and after 8 months of non-stop working, CPATrend took off. We turned a profit in 2010, and so far in 2011, we have increased our revenue by 10 fold already, with 3 months left in the year. So I've been pretty excited about the growth and where we stand now!
What was the first commission you ever earned?
The first commission I've ever earned in the affiliate marketing sphere was with a small incentives (GPT) site I had when I was 15 years old. It was on the MyPoints campaign over at CJ.com, which paid $3.00 (at the time, before lowering their payout to $2.00 over time) per short form submit. Was pretty much the best short form submit that allowed incentives and performed very well.
Many good affiliates experience overnight success. Was there a defining moment when you thought to yourself "Holy crap, I can't believe how much money I'm making right now!"?
Honestly, I've never been a full time affiliate marketer. I've had very successful campaigns over time, but I've always had my hands in bigger things while doing my personal marketing. About 4 years ago, while I was running my scrap metal business, I had quite a bit of success with Acai Berry offers. I was a small scale Acai Slinger, but my ROI was excellent, until the CPC for major keywords shot up to $4 - $5 on Adwords, and I got out. I later on had pretty major success with a bunch of gaming offers on FB, seeing > 1000% ROI's. However, I became too busy with CPATrend to pursue my personal marketing, and now spend my time helping CPATrend's publishers out as much as I can.
Where are you from?
Born and raised, and still reside in New York. It's the only place for me. I love being in the center of the universe ;).
Take us on a tour of an average day in your life.
Since I have the luxury of working from my home office, my day may look different than a lot of other network owners. I roll out of bed at around 10:00AM. Take a shower, etc., make my morning cup of coffee and get right to work. I handle most of CPATrend's Business Development, Billing, and still deal with quite a few affiliates (although they have their own account managers as well). I immediately check my email and spend as much time as necessary responding. I then work on getting offers that our affiliates request, or offers that I know will perform well for our affiliates based on the niches/traffic sources they do best in. Additionally, you'll always see me invoicing, pestering advertisers about payments, etc.. I take payments incredibly seriously, and simply cannot tolerate when people that we work with are very "lax" about payments. Anyway, I stop working for the day anywhere from 5 - 8PM EST, when I usually go out and hang out with my friends. I then tend to work until I go to sleep at around 3AM, and the cycle starts over the next day.
I know from personal experience that you're obsessive about paying your affiliates on time. Many networks cringe at the thought of paying out. What drives you to be so diligent about timely payments?
As an affiliate, I've worked with tons of networks. As a network I've dealt with tons of advertisers, some of which pay like clockwork, others that pay late consistently, or don't pay at all. I've dealt with all of the negative aspects of payment in the industry first hand, and it simply drives me insane. My theory: If you have a contract and you owe somebody money on "xyz" day, you better pay that money by "xyz" day.
As a network owner, I not only have paid my affiliates on time every single payment term since our inception (January 2010), but more often than not, I pay our publishers early. All of our monthly NET-15 publishers should be able to vouch that their payments have been sent out up to 2 weeks early at times! Unlike most networks, we don't send out our NET-15 payments at the very last second (on that 15th day after the invoice date). I want all of my publishers to have received their payments BY the 15th of the month. We pay our weekly publishers like clock-work as well, every single Wednesday. As I personally send out ALL payments on my own, I personally guarantee early/on-time payments, every single payment term.
CPATrend is NOT a high risk network. Unlike many networks (and you can certainly see more and more of this lately, especially from larger networks that you'd never expect it from), we will not hold your money because we haven't been paid by an advertiser. We have been stiffed, and we have paid our publishers in full. An affiliate network is a business that assumes the risk of being stiffed, and that's why we take certain margins, which account for situations like this. Having said that, we still take much smaller margins than most affiliate networks, and again will ALWAYS PAY YOU ON TIME!
You're very picky about choosing which affiliates you work with. Why the discretion?
In my experience, 90-95% of affiliate applications are fraudulent. The reason we use such discretion can be answered pretty easily based on this. When fraudulent leads are pushed to us, advertisers will NOT pay for this. We will not pay for this either. So why would we take the risk of allowing fraudulent publisher in to run offers that our other high quality publishers are running, and have the chance of being stiffed for ALL of the leads being sent to an offer, qualified and non-qualified leads. This goes hand in hand with my low-risk attitude. By keeping a fraud-free network, I sleep at night without ever worrying about being stiffed by an advertiser. Our extremely strict approval process has proven to be an incredible tool at keeping our network's overall quality as high as possible. We're not the type of network that will let a fraudulent publisher push garbage traffic to, just because we're pushing high volume quality traffic to the offer as well. There's not a lead that comes into our network that I don't see and know exactly where its coming from. We only work with publishers that we trust, and that will not tarnish CPATrend's reputation in any way!
Your offer payouts are among the highest in the business. How can you afford it?
It's not really a matter of affording to pay higher for certain offers. It's as simple as this:
- We take lower margins than many networks.
- Our overall network quality gets us higher payouts for your quality leads.
- We build excellent relationships with both our affiliates and advertisers and are always working diligently to get the highest payouts on offers for our publishers, while bringing our advertisers very high ROI's.
If a new affiliate wanted to join CPAtrend, what advice would you give them regarding the best chances to be approved?
Be honest on your application. Input a working phone number, and be prepared for a phone interview. We're nice people, but require that you pass through our approvals process before starting to work with us. If you saw us on oDigger, let us know what offers you're interested in running so we can be one step ahead and be prepared to match you up with those offers, as well as similar offers that would do well for you. If you have references, be sure to provide them to us, either in advance, or in the phone interview. We check
I know you guys are absolutely crushing it in the Dating, Credit Reports and Gaming niches. Want to give any shout outs to offers that are performing particularly well?
Absolutely, we do very well with the "Meet" offers: Single Parents Meet, Black People Meet, Senior People Meet, BB People Meet, etc. We've done extremely well with Cupid Plc. offers, including BeNaughty, Flirt, Click and Flirt, etc. (Web based and FB apps!). In terms of gaming, we do extremely well with SOI MMORPGs. As for credit reports, we've got quite a few with very competitive payouts -- we have lots of private offers that I can't publicly discuss, but they're in our network and they're killing it!
Affiliates work very weird hours and are working from all over the globe. How does your customer support keep up with it?
Although we work typical hours, we're available 24/7. We're obsessive of our jobs and industry and are always answering emails, answering the phone, and on AIM/MSN/Yahoo/Skype. We also give out our cell phone numbers to many of our affiliates. The more money our affiliates make, the more money we make, so we're always here to help the process!
Tell us a story about you or an affiliate manager going out of their way to assist and affiliate.
The most out of my way I've ever gone for an affiliate was a HUGE bust. I spent about 30 hours with an affiliate months after I started. He was going to do an offline venture which after crunching the numbers, and discussing his previous success would bring in roughly $2mm a year in revenue if he did it consistently. I wont go into too much details, but after 200 emails, about 20 hours on the phone, and getting an advertiser to send 11 FREE kits to the publisher (which was about $300 worth of merchandise), the publisher completely busted and pushed literally 2 leads at $40 each, on an offer I had a $5 margin on. So I made $10 after spending incredible amounts of time on him. Time is the most valuable thing we have, and cannot be wasted like that. That's definitely a lesson I've learned, but if you speak to any of my affiliates, they will tell you that I'm always available to answer questions and always do. I'm a master at multi-tasking and can take on tremendous amounts of work, and am able to do so efficiently. However, if somebody comes to me with the same idea this offline publisher had, I'd say go for a hike ;).
What news and reading to you follow to keep yourself ahead of the curve?
I'm a part of a prestigious group of network owners, industry technology innovators, and industry leaders known as the ECPM. The wealth of knowledge I gain from these people truly keeps me up-to-date on things going on in the industry, and I'd attribute quite a bit of my knowledge to this group. In addition, I constantly read through various forums (wickedfire.com, warriorforum.com, and www.speekez.com) where I participate in giving and gaining knowledge of the industry.
Our industry is known for working hard and playing hard. What do you do in your free time?
Our industry plays a lot harder than I do. Having said that... I still get mine. I'm 21 years old (22 in one month) and I still party... whether it be going to the bars, or my favorite -- going to Atlantic City. In my free time though, I like to hang out with my friends, my girlfriend, my family, play my guitar, and relax as much as possible. Running an affiliate network can be very high stress at times, so I try to balance the stress with lots of relaxation!
Anything else you would like to tell the community?
Our doors are always open, and we're always looking to take on new affiliates and new advertisers. If you're a high quality affiliate, or you have a great product or service, we're the network for you! Contact us at any time: http://cpatrend.com/contact.php
Affiliates, feel free to sign up using the following link: http://login.cpatrend.com/affiliate_signup.aspx
Thank you Mark and everybody at oDigger for taking the time to interview me. I've been extremely impressed with the growth of oDigger, and you guys are doing a great job!