Ralph Ruckman is the CEO of Convert2Media one of the fastest growing Affiliate Networks online as well as the CEO of Ruck Media his publishing company. He along with his partners are network owners, affiliates and advertisers all bundled up into one big chaotic business.
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? How old are you?
I’m Ralph Ruckman, 29 years old. I enjoy nice walks outside, crotchet and knitting. No scratch that, my passion is the Performance Marketing Industry. I love it, work it, breath it, live it.
2. How long have you been in Affiliate Marketing and how did you get involved?
I’ve been involved with Affiliate Marketing for over 6 years now, online full-time for over 5 of it. I originally got my start making money as a Freelance Content Writer who eventually figured out that my work was being paid for by companies for small costs and using my content on their websites to display advertising with it and in turn make more money month in and month out. My start would also include a small SEO Firm I owned and marketed to local businesses to increase their Search Engine Rankings.
3. How long was it before you realized you could live off your affiliate income?
A little over a year. I realized it about 10 months in but I went through a couple of months of deliberation within myself before throwing in the towel on 3 jobs.
4. What is the biggest mistake you made when you first started doing Affiliate Marketing?
I don’t really remember just one mistake that stands out in my mind. People always say that “failure is not an option” but I live by a different rule. “Failure is a requirement”. If you don’t know what or how you screwed up, then you can never learn from it and strategize how to avoid it again. I’ve made many mistakes, I still continue to make them. I love failure, it means I don’t know it all. Failure is key in my business. The more I fail, the smarter I get.
5. What was your biggest success to date?
Partnering with Steve and Michael and help grow Convert2Media what it is today. The people you can meet online can change your life and business.
6. What are the best places for the newbie to learn affiliate marketing? What advice would you give for them?
First, some of the best places of course are my blog and forum. Also, guys like NickyCakes, Jonathan Volk and Gauher Chaudrhy have some courses and guides excellent for starters. The best advice I can give them is to take a few starter courses or guides like that and put them into action. Starting affiliates are going to have to grow a really thick skin and learn to adopt the mindset of deciphering information that is worth using or not. You can do that at the Wickedfire Forums. Developing a real business, investing in yourself are key ingredients at the starting phases of becoming an affiliate marketer. Read enough to get started, then get started.
7. In your experience, what are the three most critical elements of running a successful campaign.
1). Capital – If you don’t have the money to start, you are dead in the water as a paid traffic affiliate. Is that critical? Yes in business because I primarily work with Affiliate who can turn traffic on like a switch.
2). Traffic Sources – Without them you cannot even begin. With out capital you can’t buy traffic.
3). Research / Offer Selection / Tracking – I included a bunch here because these are fundamental. Speaking with your AM regarding which offers, tips on how to promote them and being able to track your optimization is crucial in determining profitability.
8. What’s the difference between a Super affiliate and an Average affiliate?
The word “Super”. It’s a label, get over it people. I’ve met plenty of Super Affiliates making 1K a day then I’ve met some who have made 50K a day. Being deemed as a Super Affiliate is not as important as just making money is it? But technically, organization, motivation, marketing sense, cash flow all play vital roles in the ones who can make it day in and day out versus the ones who flame out a month or so down the road.
9. Tell us a little bit about your affiliate network and what you do over there?
I co-own it along with my partners Steve and Michael. I’m labeled as the CEO but it’s trifecta. It’s an affiliate network with around 3,000 publishers and over 100 direct advertising relationships. We make the world a better place for Advertisers and Affiliates to come together.
10. I see you are using HitPath as your affiliate tracking platform. What made you pick them instead of choosing LinkTrust, HasOffers and DirectTrack, etc? Do you have a plan to create your own tracking platform?
Actually we are on a new platform called Cake Marketing. We originally started on Direct Track but switched to Hitpath because we felt it had more functionality for our business. However, technology is always improving and now Cake feeds us our functionality for our future plans so now we are with them. We don’t have a plan to create our own platform no. Cake works very closely with us to allow us to incorporate anything we want. No reason to go anywhere else.
11. There are already so many CPA affiliate networks out there. What makes your network different?
We are not trying to be different. We are just doing our own thing. A couple of aspects is that you don’t see many Affiliate Network owners doing what I do on a public level.
We also run our own affiliate marketing forum, along with a soon to be coming live chatroom (which we once had), I also run a live uStream channel on Monday nights dedicated to answer questions from publishers and advertisers.
Most people bitch about their Affiliate Managers not being educated. Not the case with us, ask anyone the service Mike, Ryan and Aaron give to affiliates. It’s impeccable.
As an owner I started this business in my underwear, that’s who we cater too. Affiliates working from home, other networks, agencies, it doesn’t matter. Everyone gets treated the same and that’s with attentive responsiveness.
12. Which offers are performing well on your network?
Tough one with so many verticals. Dating, Gaming, Business opportunity. The list goes on. I wont list specifics because it just brings on the competition for our existing affiliates. But if you call me, I’ll hook you up.
13. Which traffic sources prove to be the most effective for your top earning affiliates – Pay Per Click, Pay Per View, Facebook, Media buys or any others?
Short answer is Media Buys and Email. Facebook is a good source of traffic but determining good quality is another question. Pay Per View is good too however, sustaining for long is a tough one. Pay Per Click is always good, will always be good. Getting affiliates to break out of the norm and try an offer they never would have thought of running is a different story. I’m a big fan of optimizing any traffic source for the right offer. They are all different and require logical thinking as well as imagination to optimize correctly.
14. What are the criteria for a marketer to be accepted by your network?
Go through the painful application process lol. If u make it past that, chances are you will be accepted. We have been able to customize our application process so now all it really takes is a glance before proceeding any further. We drill affiliates. Most networks look at getting all the affiliates they can. I’m looking for motivated and serious people to work with. If you are serious and motivated, we will be too.
15. What are the keys to building successful relationships between Affiliates and Affiliate Networks? What are some of the challenges of being an Affiliate Manager/Owner?
Communication is vital. Without it, nothing happens. I also think transparency and appearance play a critical role. That’s why I try to make myself available for interviews, the blog, the forum, trade shows, Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, I could go on and on. The more people see me, the more they want to work with me.
Challenges? Where do I begin. Cash flow, fraud monitoring, handling the ins and outs of everyday business. 9 out of 10 applications are fraudulent affiliates. Just the way it is. Hopefully with our new app process this gets easier.
16. If you could change one thing about the affiliate industry, what would it be?
That the barrier of entry from publishers working with networks be a lot higher. It pains me to see how many publishers bitching they don’t get paid by crap networks. On the other hand, I have to say, you truly deserve. Harsh isn’t it? That’s that part of being a successful affiliate and developing a thick skin. Sometimes some people have to be hit with a hammer before they pay attention. Networks are looking for quality affiliates and affiliates are looking for quality networks. Who out there is making themselves available everyday publicly to interact with you?
17. What do you think about where the industry is going? Where your affiliate network may be going? What advice would you give to affiliates to keep up the pace.
The Industry is under going a lot of changes in regards to regulation. The “industry” isn’t going anywhere but the offers we get and the ways we advertising will play a huge role in the lifespan of affiliates and networks. We are striving to working closely with government agencies on these regulations to ensure our longetivity. It’s a pain in the ass, but what choice do we have right? The advice is to keep your ear to the ground through the Industry forums, blogs, networks themselves and any other media spilling this stuff.
18. What are your goals in 2010?
To complete the migration over to our new platform. Open the new Kansas branch office, and just keep going like we have been.
19. Give us a little glimpse into what a typical day in your life looks like.
It changes daily but I try to make my social rounds through Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter. Lots of business comes to me from those 3. Email follow ups from the night. Followed by organizing my daily agenda for what I want to do. I then go to the network and look at stats, look at new deals coming into us. Oversee the offer production on our affiliate network, the short answer is pay attention to the 1,000 things going on. I’m a big fan of an early morning workout and 2 nightly workouts to stay healthy.