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Your favourite digital bods are thrilled to be entering the video age with a series of exciting new videos. The first releases have been created for the tens of thousands of loyal followers of our social media channels and their aim is to infuse folk with hefty dollops of inspiration sprinkled with pearls of wisdom from some of the greatest minds in history combined with what we have learned while running Azam Marketing.

We have created bespoke videos for each of our several different Facebook and Twitter accounts. The videos are similar, so we’ll showcase just a couple of them below for your delectation.

This one is for Azam Marketing’s Twitter account (follow here):

Twitter only allows videos to be up to 2 minutes 20 seconds in length and so we created the above to be just one second shorter than that limit. Facebook’s maximum time length is a lot longer (at 45 minutes), so we were able to shoot slightly longer videos for that channel and include another quotation from the “Wizard of Menlo Park”.

This particular one is for the Nadeem Azam Facebook page (like and follow here):

We’ve uploaded a few other videos to our YouTube channel in the last couple of weeks, including two indepth tutorials that are over forty minutes long each and pure gold dust, so make sure you check it out and subscribe here!

'This is Affiliate Marketing' with Shawn Collins is focused on the people behind the affiliate management/OPM companies, advertisers/merchants, affiliates/publishers, and affiliate networks. There are no tips or resources. No business advice. On each episode, Shawn interviews a new guest related to the industry, so you can learn more about the people of affiliate marketing. After all, affiliate marketing is about the people; not the companies.

I’ve been interviewed several times by radio and television stations this year, but the interview I’ve enjoyed the most is with Shawn Collins as part of his renowned ‘This is Affiliate Marketing’ podcast series.

For those people who don’t know him (have you been living under a stone??!!), Shawn is a legend in the affiliate marketing industry, having been a key figure in its development since he started out in 1997.

Shawn is Co-CEO of the Affiliate Summit, an industry conference for affiliate marketing, which regularly sells out and features the biggest names in performance marketing. He is also the Co-Editor-in-Chief of FeedFront Magazine.

His book, Successful Affiliate Marketing for Merchants is the best selling book in the space, and it is considered to be required reading by affiliate managers. He also wrote the Amazon bestselling book, Extra Money Answer, as well as Affiliate Manager Boot Camp: Recruiting, Educating, and Retaining Affiliates.

Shawn makes a point of not “talking shop” in his podcasts and there is no business talk; instead he tries to get to know what makes the personalities in the industry tick. As Shawn states, “affiliate marketing is about the people, not the companies”.

In the interview Shawn asks me about:

  • Muhammad Ali
  • Programming video games as a kid
  • Ending racial, class, and gender bias in creative professions
  • Studying political science and political ambitions
  • My addiction to reading which means checking out dozens of books from local libraries

Click play below to listen to the podcast, with relevant pictures:

Links from the interview:

Nadeem and Shawn at Affiliate Summit London conference in 2007

My team and I at Azam Marketing have lots of exciting things we will be announcing over the next few months so subscribe to this blog to remain updated for free.

Difference between B2B (Business-to-Business) and B2C (Business-to-Consumer) lead acquisition sales strategies

It is vital to ensure your sales strategy is laser focused and effective. Your B2B and B2C lead acquisition strategy is critical to success or failure. You may have the best talkers, presenters and deal-makers in your team. However, it’s going to be a long and difficult journey, and potentially cataclysmic for your business, if you have a mismatched and ineffective client-acquisition strategy.

To devise a methodology that will reap dividends for your business, your first step is to distinguish between B2B and B2C. The sales strategies that you employ are distinctly different, depending on your target audience. Here are six key differences to keep in mind:

Lead Pool

The lead pool size is a major differentiator between B2B and B2C sales strategies. With B2Cs, you are targeting large numbers of people – often millions – who you feel need your product or service.

Let’s say, as example, that you’re selling cornflakes. To zoom in on your target audience, just count the number of people who have breakfast every day. And, in case you want to broaden the market, you can get marketing to design a campaign that sells cornflakes as snack and dinner alternatives. In this case you potentially have a lead pool made up of billions of people.

For B2Bs, the lead pool size usually shrinks significantly, and is more defined by the companies’ specific requirements. As an example, let’s presume that you’re selling one of those corn/oat-flake making machines. This limits your lead pool to companies, such as Kelloggs and Nestle. You don’t even have those artisan cornflake makers in your lead pool, unless you can convince them to turn to machines.

Given this reality, a blanket approach won’t work. Similar companies will go after that puddle-sized lead pool. So, you need to be specific in your pitch to each of the companies in your pool.

For both B2B and B2C sales teams, here’s a useful pointer from SEOmoz‘s effervescent CEO and co-founder Rand Fishkin in terms of how to win over your lead pool: “Best way to sell something: don’t sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect and trust of those who might buy.”

Required Product Knowledge

Your sales team needs to know about what they’re selling. This is the same, regardless of whether they’re trying to procure purchases from consumers or businesses. You and your colleagues need to be flexible and up-to-date with your techniques. As Brian Halligan, CEO and co-founder of HubSpot, emphasises: “People shop and learn in a whole new way compared to just a few years ago, so marketers need to adapt or risk extinction.”

Both B2B and B2C sales teams need to know their product like the back of their hand. They should know their features, design details, advantages and disadvantages. Competitor knowledge is necessary too. Buyers are more sophisticated these days – be it B2B or B2C. They will know some details about your product and ask questions.

The difference lies in the depth of knowledge required. Buyers in B2B and B2C have different information requirements. A modern mother buying cornflakes, for instance, may want to know the calorie and sugar count of the product, as well as its price and taste. Your sales team can be trained to respond promptly these queries. After a week or two, they may already be highly knowledgeable about your product.

Compare this to a B2B sales team. Your team needs to know the specifications and technical details of the product. They need to know how this would fit into the systems – hardware, software and human-powered – and processes of your target companies. And, it is almost always different from one company to the next.

A few weeks of training often won’t cut it. An effective B2B sales team needs continuous training, thorough product knowledge, and experience in product presentations and fielding questions from executive-level prospects.

Number of Decision-Makers

In a typical B2C buying scenario, you only deal with one decision maker. In our cornflake example, to this day in a family set-up it is still usually the mother, and it is her tastes, budget and preferences that you need to consider. Perhaps her partner or children will also have a part to play in the cornflake-buying decision – but that is not always the case.

In the case of B2Bs, the decision-making process is more than likely to be a lengthy process that involves trying to win over several stakeholders. According to CEB (now Gartner) Executive Advisor and author Brent Adamson, the average number of B2B stakeholders is 6.8.

There are several factors to explain this, such as globalization, the decentralization of decision making and solutions packages (instead of singular products). Whatever the case, your B2B sales team should employ a strategy that factors in several key decision-makers.

Expected Response

The response to your sales strategies is expectedly on opposite ends when it comes to your B2B and B2C efforts.

You strive for an emotional response from your B2C clients. Sure, you might offer some facts here and there. Perhaps you will tell your prospects that cornflakes are good fibre sources and that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But, the end goal of your marketing outreach is to gain customer loyalty. You want them to love and prefer your product, even if there are better breakfast options.

Kellogg's corn flakes and other products of U.S. Kellogg Company are offered at a supermarket of Swiss retail group Coop in Zumikon, Switzerland

It’s different with B2B clients. Corporate purchases – such as cornflakes making machines in our example – are usually on the top end of the price scale. They’re investments that need thorough consideration, especially when it comes to the expected costs, returns, advantages and disadvantages. These are things that can’t be left to emotions.

B2B buyers are more likely to approach their purchasing decision with rationality. Keep this in mind when drafting sales strategies that target corporate buyers.

Decision-making Process

In the B2C scenario, the decision-making process is quick – in some case, even impulsive. People buy out of habit or they buy in-the-moment. Their decision is influence by advertising, word-of-mouth or habits/ cravings. To sell to this kind of audience, you need product awareness and presence.

With B2Bs, however, the wooing period is longer. There are several people making the decision, and you need to convince each one of them. You will go through a lot of phone calls, meetings and demos if you’re keen on closing the deal. And, this can take months.

Length of the Business Relationship

Typically, B2C business relationships are looked upon as one-off transactions. The focus is right there at the point of purchase. Outside that, preferences and loyalties can change. The cornflake-buying mother today may decide on another brand next week; or, she may choose to switch to eggs and toasts for breakfast.

With B2Bs, it’s different. The whole purchasing process is an investment for both sides. Your sales team puts in weeks or months of their time and effort attending to the requirements of the prospect. You nurture your lead, and provide necessary information and content. You follow-up, meet and present to all stakeholders. Your buyers put in their time and effort too to find the best-fit solution for their needs.

The underlying expectation of this mutual investment is that it’s for a long-term relationship. It’s never a one-off transaction because there’s going to be a consistent need for maintenance, support and upgrades. The stakeholder’s purchasing decision takes a long time because it’s a crucial one: that of choosing a business partner.

Of course, this can also apply to B2C transactions, at a lesser degree. You create relationships with your clients, whether B2B or B2C. This is where your business’ success lies. As speaker, writer and Chief Content Office of MarketingProfs, Ann Handley, puts it: “Make the customer the hero of your story.”

This article is originally posted at Tenfold.

The European Union and the United Kingdom have been through extensive negotiations to discuss the terms of the latter’s withdrawal from the former. With the fifth round of talks ending in Brussels on Thursday, I was invited by television channel ‘HispanTV’ to be interviewed about the discussions and the ramifications of a “no deal” scenario.

‘HispanTV’ is an international Spanish language news channel whose programmes are distributed in Spain, Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba and other countries.

I summarised where the stalled Brexit negotiations stood as regards the three key points the EU insists are resolved at stage one, namely the financial settlement, citizens’ rights and Northern Ireland, and expressed how there were severe risks to the British economy were the country to leave the trading bloc where 44% of its exports go without a meaningful deal to facilitate trade.

As is common with broadcast output, my interview was snipped down to about a twentieth of the original length, but you may see my segment here:

If you’re a Spanish speaker, here’s the written news report, as filed by HispanTV’s renowned reporter Ian Díez (the gentleman who interviewed me in the above transmission and I’m in the pictures with in this blog post):

Finaliza la quinta ronda de negociaciones para que Reino Unido abandone la UE, y por el momento no hay resolución en ninguno de los aspectos sobre el divorcio.

En este sentido, derechos de ciudadanos, frontera de Irlanda, y compromiso presupuestario son necesarios para negociar el futuro comercial entre ambos bloques tras marzo de 2019.

Hace 9 meses que el Gobierno británico activó el artículo 50, iniciando formalmente el periodo de negociación de dos años para salir de la Unión Europea (UE) y de hoy los avances son escasos.

Tras el fin de la quinta ronda de negociaciones, sigue sin haber acuerdo en lo referido al estatus de ciudadanos, frontera entre Irlanda del Sur e Irlanda del Norte y las contribuciones al presupuesto comunitario a las que se comprometió la primera ministra británica, Theresa May, en su discurso en Florencia (Italia) el pasado 22 de septiembre.

El negociador británico, David Davis, afirma que las negociaciones avanzan, pero el jefe negociador de la UE para el Brexit, Michel Barnier, no comparte su optimismo y destaca la falta de acuerdo en puntos clave del divorcio, sin el cual, no se negociarán futuras relaciones comerciales. En Londres, las presiones para que estas negociaciones comiencen antes de final de año, ponen en riesgo aún más la unidad del Partido Conservador.

La primera ministra desea que la totalidad de las negociaciones terminen antes de marzo de 2019, fecha en la que Reino Unido abandona oficialmente la UE, pero el ritmo actual de las negociaciones no invitan al optimismo y si Bruselas no acepta la propuesta de un periodo de transición, se podría llegar a la fecha límite sin acuerdo. A consecuencia de esta incertidumbre, la libra esterlina ha vuelto a bajar tras esta jornada.

BBC Asian Network is a British radio station whose target audience is young people aged 15-35 of South Asian descent (Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi), and anyone with an interest in South Asian affairs. The music and news comes out of the main urban areas where there are significant communities with these backgrounds. The station has production centres in London (Broadcasting House) and Birmingham (The Mailbox).Our Manager, Nadeem, was invited by the BBC to be interviewed about the impact of social media on voting trends and various related subjects. The interview was for the BBC Radio Asian Network, which is predominantly targeted at the UK’s three million south Asians.

Nadeem was asked to share his expertise on a number of points, including:

  • How has social media affected people’s voting preferences?
  • How is Britain’s Labour Party using social media to attract the youth vote?
  • How do different south Asian religious groups vote?

Press play here to listen to the interview:

After the interview, the BBC offered Nadeem a tour of their headquarters, Broadcasting House in central London. Apparently they are the largest broadcast studios in the world, producing and beaming television, radio and online content in multiple languages around the world. See some of Nadeem’s pictures from the tour below.

Click here to see photographs in larger size (opens in new window)

Listen to one of Nadeem’s several previous interviews on BBC Radio here, in which he reveals his three golden techniques on how to save significants amounts on your online shopping.

In an exciting new series, we will be publishing articles to enable you to upscale your skills in the work environment, including effectively prospecting for clients, productive ways to manage clients deal once they’ve come on board, handling colleagues with emotional intelligence, the most powerful online marketing techniques and tools, and much more.

The first article, below, proffers strategies on how to successfully win new clients.

Business-to-business (B2B) prospecting is something even seasoned sales professionals struggle with occasionally. Read our 5 healthy habits below.In prospecting, the goal is to create interest, convert that interest into relationships, and successfully manage these connections to produce meaningful transactions in the future.

So, what is a good prospector and what do they do?

As with any successful relationship, prospecting entails developing good habits throughout the whole process.

You do not just nurture it at the beginning, nor do you simply wait for it to continue being productive at later stages. Be it after great starts, or maybe after the first, second, and maybe hundredth “no,” consistent tenacity in pursuing profitable partnerships, and fierce loyalty to the company’s vision, will ensure a healthy connection is maintained, and cultivate a robust business image for even more sales leads.

To help salespeople keep in good prospecting shape, here are 5 healthy habits to successful prospecting:

1. Targeting the right prospects

Successful sales prospectors know that the initial and crucial phase of their work is researching extensively on their ideal client. It is best to be as specific as possible when determining the criteria upon which your prospecting activity will be based.

Get to know who your happiest, most regular customers are and deconstruct their criteria from there. Ask yourself, “What demographics do they have in common?”

Once you have determined this relevant baseline, scout avenues to maximize your interaction with this target audience.

Go beyond your individual clientele and look for prospects in companies and organizations. Establish relationships with the right people in these companies. If possible, go straight to the influencers who make decisions for more direct connections.

Constantly update yourself on the trends of your target market and industry. Using your influencer contacts, keep tabs on emerging markets for more possible prospects, or even diversification of prospects.

2. Planning your prospecting activity

It does not end in working the right market, however. Now you must strategically plan how to approach these markets.

In planning your prospecting activity, one should start with end goals in mind. These are plans that are to be achieved within specific timeframes – a day, a week, a month, and even a year. These goals should be kept simple and measurable – an established number of prospects met with daily, a target number of scheduled talks within the month, etc.

Once the set goals are established, one should look at the tasks each activity needs so that these goals are hit.

Consider the assets that will come in to prospecting play. Databases of information should be kept updated and accurate. Scripts need to be developed, improved and custom-made to suit the criteria’s interests, needs, and language of comfort.

These methods of prospecting should be thoroughly thought about and aimed at the right criteria of clients. Depending on your prospect base, figure out the regularity, intensity, etc, of these prospecting activities.

3. Keeping tabs on your team

Once prospecting tasks have been carried out and business relationships are beginning to be established, it is always best to follow through.  For prospectors who work with a team, data tracking is important.

A competent sales team should be able to track – where do leads come from, and what stage is a prospect in, in the buying process? These, and other similar questions, should be answered, to track productivity and efficiency.

If there’s new information about what offers the prospects and leads are interested in, then that can be very helpful. At the very least, you can see where you stand in terms of your stated goals. Plus, this tracking can be used further down the line, in revisiting targets and plans.

If your prospecting finger is on the button, then it will become easier for you to adapt goals, targets, schemes, etc.

4. Prospecting continuously

There is no immediate success in prospecting–but if it is planned well, and the campaign carefully customized to your ideal customer’s standards, you can expect new connections and sales conversions on a regular basis. Knowing how to be an excellent salesperson is about understanding the importance of persistence.

To ensure consistent productivity, prospecting has to be done relentlessly, no matter the outcome. Sometimes, it should even be done more tenaciously, in the face of negative feedback.

A typical sales prospector is aware that rejection is part of the process. A wise prospector however, also knows that these can be turned around over time, and with the proper approach. Prospecting should be done on a regular basis, keeping the end goal clear in mind, and not losing heart in the process.

5. Nurturing relationships

When prospecting leads to positive results, it is then best to dive in and capitalize on this favourable angle. This lead could be a source of more sales, and hopefully another sales lead.

This customer could connect to other customers with similar demographics, or even be a part of an organization that caters to this specific sale. Developing a habit of regularly maximizing leads allows prospectors to guarantee that these avenues are fully explored, and do not get lost in the panorama of the overall process.

Allowing prospectors to cultivate these good habits warrants that sales leads are productively generated, followed up on, and developed. Managers who know how to be successful in sales understand that prospecting is in the core of a healthy sales team and everyone should be prospecting.

This article is originally posted at Tenfold.

Affiliate network Awin interviews Nadeem Azam in their blog

On the 20th anniversary of our founding, Europe’s leading affiliate network Awin has interviewed our CEO, Nadeem Azam.

The interviewer asks Nadeem:

  • how affiliate marketing has evolved over the last two decades
  • the developments that have been pivotal to Azam Marketing’s success
  • the three most important lessons he’s learned during his career
  • the biggest challenges Azam Marketing faces
  • what a start-up publisher needs to do to succeed

Read the full, eye-opening interview below or a shortened version here on Awin’s site.

Azam Marketing is a publisher and full-service digital marketing and design company which is headquartered in Covent Garden in central London.

Azam Marketing started their affiliate journey in 1997 by building a network of niche websites promoting advertisers in the USA, UK and continental Europe, becoming an affiliate on the Awin network in 2001.

Having built up an expertise in online advertising and web design by working on their own websites, Azam Marketing went on to provide these services to other businesses. To date they have built 427 websites and helped 993 clients to grow their online presence.

We speak to CEO, Nadeem Azam about how the affiliate industry has evolved over the past two decades, lessons learnt from his career and the biggest challenges Azam Marketing faces within the industry.

Nadeem Azam at Awin's black-tie dinner event "An Elaborate Execution" in 2009Congratulations are in order as Azam Marketing celebrates 20 years within the affiliate marketing industry and 16 years on the Awin network. What was your opinion of the affiliate space when you founded the company in 1997?

Thank you. Affiliate marketing was all but non-existent in the UK and the rest of Europe and we started off by partnering with advertisers in the USA. This included the likes of book and magazine retailers, hardly any of which exist anymore either because, at some point or other, they went out of business or were snapped up by other companies.

When we started in 1997 there were a few American affiliate networks that had recently launched. We belonged to around a dozen affiliate programs, either working with advertisers directly or via the nascent affiliate networks.

When we applied to join advertisers’ affiliate programs, we would sometimes have to fax or post our details!

To receive payment, we would usually email or fax an invoice, and in most cases our affiliate commissions were paid to us by “check”, as they’re called in the USA.

Although the set-up, technologies and know-how was rudimentary in the early days, there was a tremendous sense of optimism about this new world that only a relatively few buccaneering entrepreneurs were trying to develop an understanding of and grow a presence in.

With its roots in the military and academia, the internet was not a particularly commercial environment in the mid-1990s and that meant there was a meaningful camaraderie and sense of community. For example, programmers on the other side of the world I hardly knew would see me post on a Usenet group about struggling with creating a script to add functionality to a website and, without even asking, spend an hour or two creating it and then sending it to me! In the same mode, I would spend hours on bulletin boards and Usenet groups assisting people to build and promote their websites.

Has this opinion changed two decades on?

Boy have things changed! Twenty years in internet marketing has probably involved more transformation than a hundred years in many professions like law, dentistry and high street retailing.

Whereas it was a struggle to find an affiliate program in the UK and around Europe, there are literally tens of thousands nowadays. Things have turned upside down and nowadays it’s a challenge to find a medium or large size retailer that doesn’t have an affiliate program!

Affiliate networks like Awin are now full of shiny, sophisticated tools and API solutions. Payments are automated and, on the whole, reliable: I can’t remember a single point in the last ten years when Awin has missed a payment to us.

Despite the brave new cyberworld that has come into being, we are still at the dawn of the internet revolution. Affiliate marketing is at an early stage of its evolution, and has a way to go to ensure, for instance, that tracking is robust and dependable.

Which key digital milestones have significantly shaped Azam Marketing’s business strategy to make it the company it is today?

Good question.

From a practical perspective, the shift first from high-cost and low-speed dial-up to low-cost and high-speed dial-up and then from dial-up to broadband, has been a key pillar in enabling Azam Marketing, our advertisers and their customers to enjoy the benefits of the internet.

If it takes you twenty seconds of screeching sounds to log onto the internet and then you have to pay an arm and a leg for a flaky 56k connection, you’re not going to use it very often!

In terms of improvements instigated internally, we pivoted to success when we started running Azam Marketing as a data-driven operation on every level rather than one where decisions were made using a more arbitrary, ‘creative’ approach let’s just say! Now the judgements my team and I make are based on pure logic, obsessively analysing relevant information and metrics.

To give an example, whenever we are hired to drive leads for a new advertiser, rather than rushing headlong into trying to flood them with traffic, we use a combination of tools and manual research to meticulously study every aspect of their competitor’s strategies and, if we are sending leads to landing pages, we will take the pages through several rounds of usability analysis and split-testing before we settle on the final, near-perfect one.

I suppose the fact that my nose is glued to a computer screen with the likes of Microsoft Excel and Google Analytics displayed on it much of the day makes Azam Marketing a less exciting enterprise than we used to be in the early days, but I have learned a lot over my decades in business, and the data-driven approach to decisions means ultimately less time and money is wasted in the long-term.

Name the three most important lessons you have learnt during your career as Founder and CEO of an award-winning global agency?

1. The Customer is King – after the startup enthusiasm wanes, the majority of unsuccessful businesses eventually begin to be run to service the egos of their staff and ensure they don’t have to take themselves too much outside of their comfort zones. The vast majority of successful businesses put the satisfaction of customers at front and centre of everything they do, even decades after starting out.

I am flabbergasted at how the management of hardly any small or medium-sized enterprise bothers to obtain feedback from their clients, customers and employees. It’s usually only when a client or colleague leaves that it dawns upon them they were disgruntled!

In my own company, at the end of every month every staff member has to give me feedback as their Manager and must include at least one thing I should improve about myself. I have also set-up mechanisms for staff and clients to send their opinions to me completely anonymously. This ensures I don’t have my head in the clouds and can live up to the mantra my staff are sick of hearing me proselytise, of the customer being king.

2. Time is Money – the world is full of people who want you to help them and their businesses for no remuneration, whereas they would seldom commit serious time, energy and money to assisting others on a pro bono basis themselves.

I have wasted thousands of hours over the years by foolishly getting sucked into working on other people’s initiatives to the detriment of my own progression. I have finally developed a nose for sussing out ‘users’ and ‘time-wasters’ and will not give them the time of day any more.

It’s saving me a lot of time, as, for instance, I get contacted by at least twenty so-called entrepreneurs every week who want me and my team to work on their new-fangled and usually ill-thought-out business ventures on a ‘revenue share’ – i.e. no payment – basis (tip: the best way to get rid of such people is to ask for their business plan – 99% of them can’t be bothered to create one and you’ll never hear from them again!).

3. Health is Wealth – if you are not physically, psychologically and spiritually balanced and healthy, unless you have an innate talent which most of us are not blessed with, you are unlikely to succeed in business in the long-term.

The online marketing industry we work in can combine the worst excesses that advertising is renowned for (the hard drinking culture and the like) with the dangers prevalent in the IT sector (long days sat on a chair, excessive snacking while on the computer). Among affiliates, we used to joke about the “affiliate belly” this would result in.

I’ve seen too many talented young people in affiliate marketing not live up to their potentials because they didn’t look after themselves. They have made very little progression with their careers over ten or fifteen years; others have left the industry because their unbalanced lifestyles eventually took their tolls on them.

On the other hand, I’ve witnessed individuals I’ve mentored who did look after themselves go on to tremendous success – earning six figure incomes in their early and mid-thirties – because not only did they work with exceptional strategy and focus, but they heeded my advice to prioritise their health too. These people do not turn up to the office boasting about having a hangover that impedes their performance.

I myself walk at least 10,000 steps four days a week, go to the gym three times a week, eat healthily, and practice mindfulness and pray every day; were it not for these I would almost certainly have burned up and been spat out by this demanding industry a long time ago.

I still spend way too much time with Marilyn (my PC) than is good for me and that penchant is a work in progress let’s just say!

What is the biggest challenge Azam Marketing faces within the industry?

The three biggest challenges we see as an affiliate are, firstly, the dominance of cashback and voucher code websites and browser plugins, secondly, the shift from desktop to mobile, and thirdly, ad and tracking blockers.

In terms of the former, Azam usually sits as the beginning of the funnel for purchasing decisions as we have a network of content-rich websites, with, for instance, book reviews. While we may encourage someone to buy a book, it can be the case that another affiliate receives the commission by claiming they have a voucher code for the bookshop (even though in most cases they don’t) and the ‘click-to-reveal’ feature on their website – banned by the IAB UK in 2010 – drops their cookie.

In terms of mobile devices, a significant ratio of advertisers still don’t have tracking installed that reliably tracks affiliate traffic on mobiles. Also, many larger retailers, gaming companies etc. are aggressively encouraging users to download their mobile apps, which means affiliates will have less of an opportunity to earn referral commissions going forward.

As for ad and tracking blockers, which are being installed in their millions by the month around the world, including being integrated into increasing numbers of browsers, these are obviously a threat to affiliates as they mean adverts are hidden and any clicks users make from an affiliate to an advertiser’s website is not tagged back to affiliate.

You are 20 years into your affiliate marketing career, but for startup publishers starting out within the channel, what is the future looking like and what advice can you give?

Despite what I have stated as my answer to your previous question, the opportunities to become a successful publisher are very much there.

When Azam Marketing launched, most people didn’t even know what the internet was and, even when people started going online, they were very hesitant to provide their credit card details to any website, as they were worried about being scammed.

Over the last twenty years internet shopping has become mainstream to such an extent that it is driving high street retailers out of business, and, even in mature markets, is expanding at such a rate that ecommerce was responsible for 41.6% of all retail sales growth in the USA last year (2017 US Department of Commerce figures)!

Therefore, the opportunity for start-up publishers to become profitable are tremendous. The formula is simple: a nose for where the opportunities will lie, the willingness to work in a focused and sagacious way, and… a little bit of pixie dust!

World's Earliest Surviving Digital Marketing and Design Agency Celebrates Landmark 20th Birthday

As part of the commemorations marking our twentieth anniversary this month, I serve for your delectation twenty of the most curious, odd and downright insane episodes I’ve experienced compèring The Azam Marketing Show over the last two decades.

This blog post features the first ten incidences, covering the decade from 1997 to 2007. This was our start up phase when, first as a one-man band and then with a burgeoning number of freelance staff (the inhouse bods would come later), I struggled to pan for gold in the Wild West that was the nascent world wide web.

Some dotcom entrepeneurs I knew did find gold, made millions and brilliantly exited before the dotcom crash; the vast majority (including myself in the early days) struggled to even make as much as the kid flipping burgers in their local McDonalds.

There were few rules and almost anything went. It was brutal and it was fun.

Behind the cool, calm and sane exterior that most people try to exude in business, in the early days of the internet it often felt the battle to become the Zeus of the cyber-world was akin to competing in the Wacky Races:

From one to ten, here goes:

1. When I was researching (fro  su er 1996 to su er 1997) and launching (on 4 August 1997) the business, believe it or not I often did so on a keyboard on which the ‘ ‘ key didn’t work!

At the ti e I was e ployed as a journalist (and doing about four other jobs) for a co unity agazine in We bley, north London. The organisation was in dire financial straits and ridiculously badly run, so they couldn’t afford to buy  e a fully functioning keyboard.

Whether it was writing articles for the agazine, progra ing  y websites, or scripting the content for  y web pages, I would farcically do so without an ‘ ‘ in anything. Whenever the Deputy Editor went on his lunch-break or left work for the day, I scrurried over to his co puter with a disc, loaded up whatever I had been coding or writing, and then would go through the copy line-by-line painstakingly adding all the  issing ‘ ‘s!

You may see my 1990-built Apple Macintosh Classic in the first row of pictures, on the right, in this video we have recently released showing twenty images from our twenty years in business:

2. I spent a long stretch juggling two balls – being a scribe for the magazine and rearing Baby Azam. I would churn out articles for the publication from 9am to 7pm, at such volume that the Editor used three nom de plumes for my output, and then remain in the office, after everyone had left, to use the one computer which had an internet connection (alongside, praise the Lord, a functioning ‘m’ key) to build my business. I would usually be tapping away on the keyboard until 1 am.

I had found a shabby old mattress in a cupboard in the office block where the magazine was based and would drag it into the middle of our office and drop it down. Surrounded by desks and computers and with press releases from around the world churning out of the fax machine which was positioned near my head, I would sleep from 1am until 6am-ish.

After breakfast and shaving in the toilets, I would then spend another couple of hours working on my venture until the staff waltzed into the office.

3. I eventually parted ways with the magazine and was able to work on the business during office hours as well. The biggest obstacle was I didn’t have an internet connection as I couldn’t afford the pricey per-minute dial-up connections there were at the time.

I owe a tremendous gratitude to a number of colleges and universites whose computer laboratories were a saving grace for me. I would enrol on the lowest cost course I could find, which would then grant me access to the institution’s PC rooms.

It wasn’t always the most salubrious of environments, but I would sit in the computer centre of colleges like Westminster Kingsway with teenagers playing rap music and flinging balls of paper to each other past my nose while I manically tapped on the keyboards at 90 words per minute to execute my World Conquest Plans until I’d be thrown out onto the streets at the closing times.

4. Ahhhh… the heady days of the dotcom boom. It’s all but impossible to describe what an electrifying time it was to anybody who didn’t experience it. At this point my programming skills were still rather “rudimentary” let’s just say and so Azam’s websites looked just hideous.

But that didn’t stop people hurling cheques at me paying at a rate of $70 CPMs (per thousand impression) to show their banner graphic advertisements on my websites. To give a benchmark of how golden those days were, if a website owner nets $2 CPM these days they are doing very well. It’s akin to somebody now earning a mere 2% of what they used to for doing the same task.

I can still smell those Dotcom boom time cheques.

Here’s some banner adverts we hosted on our websites around the turn of the millennium I’ve dug out from our archives: was a pioneering online book retailer. Barnes & Noble were very late off the mark in building a web presence, so they bought to try to catch-up with Amazon. The domain name now forwards to Barnes & Noble's website

Weren't web ads just plain ugly in those days? Many people would argue they still are

I have witnessed so many online retailers launch with fanfare and hype, and then close down a few years later. This was one of them

Amazon eventually launched a UK web store and here is one of the earliest banner ads for Amazon UK

5. As many people in my industry know, I am the polar opposite of Tim Ferris with his fabled “4-Hour Work Week” philosophy (Amazon UK, USA) and hail more from from the “100-Hour Work Week” School of Thought, as promulgated by… errrr… nobody.

As dial-up internet costs started reducing in the run-up to the millennium, I could afford to log on more frequently from my home desktop computer. To help pay that £80 / $100 a month dial-up internet and other bills, I took on flatmates for my little apartment.

One of them, Hector from Venezuela, would go out with his amigos and often return home at 2 or 3am. He would quietly unlock the front door and try to tip-toe towards his bedroom so as not to wake me up. As he walked past my room, almost every single time he would glance over and sat on the dining table in the far corner, in pitch black darkness with the bright white light of the computer monitor lighting up his face, was yours truly tapping away on a keyboard. I remember him screaming every single time, “Nadeeeeeeeeem… I can’t believe you’re still up at this time on the computer!”

Happy days.

Here’s the only picture from the era I’ve managed to find of me working on my computer. It’s from around 2002, and shows me in my bedroom in my pyjamas:

6. Remember the good ol’ “ezine”? It was a fairly well-known term in the early days of the web, referring to electronic magazines that were emailed to people. They held a position akin to today’s blogs.

By the early noughties Azam Marketing (aka moi and a handful of freelancers and consultants by this time) had built our own little web empire, with more than sixty websites.

Most of them were nothing to write home about, but one that stood out and became somewhat successful was 1Lit, an ezine. It was a literary publication, emailed to subscribers on the first of every month (hence the moniker 1Lit). You may see a screenshot from the mast of the 1 February, 2001 North American issue below and click on the image to read it. The 1 December, 2002 issue of the European edition is here.

A screenshot of the header of the 1 February, 2001 issue of Azam Marketing's literary ezine 1Lit. As George W. Bush had just become President, the issue included 1Lit's top four 'Bushisms'. Click here to read the publication at the Wayback Machine

I would spend days researching and writing the content (I can recall climbing up a hill in the village of Heptonstall in Yorkshire to take photographs of Sylvia Plath’s grave for the publication) and, after a while, it became increasingly popular. The subscriber list included many professors from the likes of Harvard, Princeton, Oxford and Cambridge universities and well-known authors. was another website in our portfolio and was celebrated for a while in the early noughties in the UK. Despite its name, no it wasn’t a porn site (more on that subject further below), but featured film reviews, news, charts and all kinds of related information. It was one of the four most popular stand-alone movie websites in the country and we were regularly invited to the London premieres and previews of British and sometimes Hollywood films.

Particularly popular were the picture galleries of actors and actresses. When the site ranked number one for photos of Catherine Zeta-Jones, we were flooded with so much traffic – which, no matter what we tried, wouldn’t generate any income – that we had to deliberately de-SEO the webpage (for non-geeks that means making it less popular in the eyes of the search engines) as our web host kept asking us to pay more and more money for the bandwidth our website was devouring.

After many years of my team and I slaving over both 1Lit and, I eventually had to take the painful decision to leave them to rot. The vast amount of time and cost involved in running the operations and regularly publish high-quality content wasn’t justified by the low returns.

7. Traditional businesses finally woke-up and realised the internet was not a fad that would go the way of CB radios, so they began to use their muscle to try to crush the pure-play dotcoms that had built a robust online presence. Using the Wacky Races analogy, this was akin to Dick Dastardlys and Muttleys in colossal tanks trying to ram-raid little Azam ‘Penelope Pitstop’ Marketing off the road.

Therefore, in the noughties there was seldom a month when I didn’t receive a letter from some preeminent legal firm or other based in New York, London or Berlin. Needless to say these lawyers had all but a rudimentary understanding of the internet and the premisces on which they threatened to hurl us into Valhalla were often beyond absurd.

By way of example, in the early days of the internet, search engines had less sophisticated algorithms and if you had cutting-edge Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) skills you could rank very highly when people searched for the keywords you targeted. Such were our abilities we ranked number one in AltaVista and Yahoo for brand names such as “WHSmith” and “Virgin Megastores” (for those outside the UK, two major high street retailers in the country). One day I received a coarse cease and desist letter from the latter’s law firm, with a letterhead declaring their presence in the swishest part of London, asserting what we were doing was “illegal” and we must stop immediately.

We were an approved affiliate marketing partner of Virgin Megastores, who had hired us and many other affiliates to drive sales to them. There was nothing in their terms and conditions to say we couldn’t outrank them in the organic search engine results. If we were positioned higher them their internet marketing bods were not doing their jobs properly and it was not illegal in any way, shape or form.

I immediately summoned Azam Marketing’s hotshot inhouse legal team into my office looking out over the recently-erected Millennium Wheel and, chewing one of my favourite brand of Cuban cigars, we discussed Virgin Megastores’ legal challenge (well, truth be told, I was sat on my bed in my stripey blue pyjamas reading and reflecting on the legal letter by myself, but the former sounds more Wolf-of-Wall-Streetish). Even though Azam Marketing was legally on firm ground, I am always a pragmatist and rather than blowing thousands of pounds on legal fees as many people are only too wont to do to bolster their egos, I acquiesced to the demands of the edict. We de-SEOd our website to cause it to drop in the search rankings, falling below Virgin Megastores’ webpages.

8. Left reeling from the dotcom crash that brought many an e-business to its knees, I didn’t have much in the way of an advertising budget, so tried all kinds of weird and wonderful methods to garner free publicity for my business.

When, for instance, in 2003 David Blaine spent 44 days encased in a clear perspex box hanging 30ft in the air near the River Thames, I saw it as an opportunity to gain some PR. I turned up wearing a t-shirt advertising my website and tried to get interviewed by the world’s media that had coverged on the site. I managed to interviewed both by a national TV station in Canada and also for the news broadcast of a part of the United States I can’t remember now, so one could say my tactic worked.

Most of my marketing strategies were dismal failures, such trying to promote one of Azam’s literary websites by placing branded bookmarks in thousands of books in the libraries in my area (one could breathe more freely in the days before CCTVs were so prevalent).

9. As my coding and design skills improved and I started making enough money to hire talented creatives – even being awarded a Yahoo! Website-of-the-Week commendation for one of our creations – more and more people began contacting me to build websites for them.

One fellow offered me a sizeable wad of money to build pornographic websites for him (such sites could be very lucrative, as webpreneurs kept letting slip at the first internet conferences I attended). I turned him down. He kept offering me more and more money and wouldn’t stop trying to persuade me. So, to shut him up, I blurted, “I’ll tell you what, if your wife tells me she’d like me to build the websites I will do so,” knowing his wife to be a prim and proper mother of five children. Never in a million years did I expect her to ring me five minutes later and exclaim she wholeheartedly was in favour of me building a porn network for her husband!

In all the years of running Azam, it’s the only time I can recall when I broke my word to a client and I still didn’t go ahead.

10. I can’t script an article without sharing at least one tip: if you wish to buy an asset from someone, don’t contact them using an email address using the domain name. Why? Because, as you are probably not aware, that’s the domain name for none other than the (pre-2008 crash) Masters of the Universe otherwise known as Merrill Lynch and the recipient of your missive is highly likely to believe your pockets are bulging with rather a lot of banknotes.

So, in 2005 when I received an email from someone a quick online search revealed held a very senior role at Merrill Lynch offering to buy Azam Marketing’s domain name my ears pricked in a Mr Spock-like fashion.

The reason we use as our corporate domain name rather than is because we eventually negotiated such a pretty penny that we had little choice but to sell the latter.

To this day it’s the most heartbreaking business decision I’ve ever had to make.

The picture below was taken on Tuesday of me near Westminster Bridge. The sculpture I’m standing next to, called ‘The Dance’, was designed by the talented artist who acquired the domain name from us to host a website showcasing his creations.

Me a couple of days ago outside the four-metre high 'Azam' bronze-cast sculpture which was unveiled in February 2008. The domain name is now owned by the artist who designed this sublime work of art

And there ends the first decade of the Azam story. Part II, which covers 2007 – 2017, will be published within the next several days.

Make sure you subscribe now to be notified when it goes live. You won’t want to miss why I had to drink a cup of tea at the slowest pace anybody has ever done to get out of a tricky wicket or what happened when I was summoned to meet the perpetrator of the biggest heist in human history who had changed tack to enter the online marketing industry.

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