When it comes to affiliate marketing, finding authoritative sources of reliable information can be a real pain in the ass.
For a long time, the only places you could find out “what’s working now” were scattered across forums, Facebook groups and private communities. But even then, most information was opinionated… biased… and never comprehensive.
Staying up-to-date on all the latest tactics, changes and opportunities that ripple through the industry was practically a full-time gig.
That was a problem for many. And in early 2018, long-time affiliate and STM forum moderator Manu Cinca decided to solve it.
With the release of WHAT THE AFF, a daily newsletter with laser focus on affiliate marketing, Manu and his team created a reliable, authoritative resource that the industry desperately needed.
Of course, this is just one example of what Manu has brought to the industry. Manu has long been on the pulse of affiliate marketing, pushing his peers to constantly improve and doing his part to strengthen our community. It’s this spirit of pursuing the best for our industry (while building your own reliable asset out of it) that encapsulates our perception of a performance marketing hero.
We’re proud to feature his thoughts on entrepreneurship, solving problems, and the ideal future of our industry in this interview. Over to you, Manu!
1. Who are you?
Problem solver. I think if someone would tell me to define myself in just one phrase that would be it. It’s a prerequisite for being an entrepreneur and running your own business.
It took me a few years to realize that. You kind of notice that if you start your own business when people ask “what do you do?” it’s never enough to say you have your own business. It always goes to “what does that business do?”. Then to “and what do you do in that business?”
Solving problems. That’s the answer. So that’s also a tip for anyone out there that never found a good answer. And this is because you always have to do what is needed to make your own business succeed. There’s no such thing as “not my job”.
Aside from that, I’m a two-time University dropout from a small town in Romania, who now lives in Vienna. I come from a pretty typical middle-class family that had regular financial struggles when I was a kid. This background made me quite ambitious and hard-working.
I guess I could add that I’m certainly on the introverted side of the spectrum. Maybe those that have known me for a few years know that I tend to call it a day once meetups and events go into the drinking and partying side of things.
I enjoy the work I do and I never think of “work-life balance”. Probably one big benefit of being responsible only for yourself, not for a family.
2. What are you most excited about right now?
Well, like most founders, I’m most excited by the project I’m working on now. In late spring 2018, I launched WHAT THE AFF. I would describe it as a daily marketing magazine that gets delivered straight over email for free to anyone interested.
The feedback for it has been very good, the people who read it enjoy it and we’re starting to really figure out the business side of things for it too.
This makes me excited because we’re doing something different in our industry and we seem to be on the right path. And these good early results make me think of bigger things we could achieve in this space.
3. When you get stuck in your work, where (or to whom) do you turn?
Google. Only half-kidding. I google most things I’m unsure of. Since becoming an affiliate I’ve learned a ton of skills and solved problems by googling. Especially if it’s something technical, that has to do with landing pages, servers, banners, etc. it’s almost for sure someone else had that same issue. And they also got help for that problem.
This is when it comes to very hands-on issues that have to do with anything affiliate marketing related.
When it comes to business, I turn to my team first. Most common issues that are not technical that come up have to do with structuring different processes. So it’s just those of us involved figuring it out.
When it comes to a broader strategy and the state of the industry, that’s when I turn more often to outside help. I turn to people I trust, that see things from the outside only and know little about our internal operations.
I will probably forget a few people but some that I talk to at least a few times a year are Paul Jeyapal, Andrew Payne, Servando Silva and cmdeal, a well-known STM Forum member.
They each give me a thorough but very different take on what is going on in the industry and how I should position myself and my business.
4. What is the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far?
There’s been so many, it’s impossible to say just one. I guess I can say the broader challenge of building the right mental strength to ride the entrepreneurship roller-coaster.
This involves taking responsibility for actions and results because there’s no boss to blame. Working when you don’t feel like it. Working on things you don’t exactly know how to solve.
You have to hit a tough line of being confident in your actions and your ability to adjust when you’re wrong but not so confident that you stop questioning your thought process. In other words, you should not be so confident that you get cocky.
Another challenge that is a close second and still related is proving your abilities to others when you’re the youngest in the room. It doesn’t happen much any more. For one thing, I’m rarely the youngest in the room. Secondly, I’ve been in such a position for 6 years now so I managed to gather a good amount of experience.
Nonetheless, it was certainly difficult to not feel like you don’t belong in certain situations. Mostly because others didn’t avoid showing it. That ends up being a huge hit for anyone’s confidence, so you become so unsure of your decisions that you often don’t make any.
Some people might have heard this before but the worst thing you can do is nothing. Taking any action, even if it turns out to be wrong is better. You can learn from the mistake and do better next time. Doing nothing and just “freezing” is the absolute worst thing…
So if anyone has confidence issues, just do whatever you think could work, and learn why it didn’t if you fail.
5. Who are your heroes in the industry?
I started affiliate marketing on the STM Forum, with Hugh Hancock’s mobile guide. Some people know him as caurmen. Unfortunately, he passed away about a year ago… He is certainly many people’s industry hero. I’m sure you guys will see this answer frequently in your interviews.
cmdeal is certainly on this list too. It’s the person who’s impressed me the most not just in this industry but when it comes to anything business related.
Andrew, Paul and Servando make my list. I wouldn’t ask them for their advice if I didn’t think highly of them.
Last but not least, Nikhil, Dexter and Simone who work every day on the content we provide in our daily emails for a few months now.
There are many others who certainly have achieved bigger and greater things, others who are more famous but this is my list.
6. If you had the power to change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
Its reputation. Whether we like it or not, affiliate marketing has a bad reputation. And it’s not for no reason, right?
Many sides that do business together have questionable practices that end up hurting how people view the industry. Some traffic sources have bot traffic, some affiliate networks and advertisers have scrubbing, then some affiliates have their ways to get around the rules of both traffic sources and networks.
In an ideal scenario, the imperfections that push each side towards such activities would be gone and everyone would be better off because of it.
I’m fully aware this is not going to happen quickly, if ever… But I’m not supposed to give a realistic answer, right?
OK, realistic answer though - I’d make WHAT THE AFF so good, everyone in our industry wants to read it. Haha.
If you ask us, Manu’s wish has already come true - WHAT THE AFF is one of the go-to resources for everyone in our industry. If you’re not signed up already, well… what the aff, man?! Sign up here and you’ll never miss out on the most important updates about affiliate marketing, entrepreneurship and more.
This is the second edition of our Anatomy of a Hero series, in which we review performance marketing success stories from across the industry.
Each person featured in this series has been asked to participate because they have created their own success. Their actions set the example for our industry. That, to us, makes them a performance marketing hero.
We ask the same 6 questions to each, but instead of tactics and tips, we focus on the inherent traits that make these people stand out - their successes, their hardships and their hopes for the industry.