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POF 7-Day Mastery Guide Review
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Lessons Taken From My First (24) Years
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Affiliate Marketing As An Investment Strategy

POF 7-Day Mastery Guide Review

Last week, iPyxel’s Tom Fang kindly dropped his POF 7-Day Mastery Guide in to my inbox. Being a regular advertiser on Plentyoffish, I busted out my sponge, and set about soaking up his advice in the hope that it’d be somewhat different to my usual tricks and shenanigans, a few of which I framed for mass consumption in Premium Posts Volume 1.

Well, it was certainly different. Not a reference to my balls in sight.

Here’s iPyxel’s breakdown of the content included.

  • Mass production of ads
  • Approaching broad vs. niche traffic
  • Tracking methodology and managing campaigns en mass
  • How to target and split test properly
  • Building long term campaigns by mitigating burnout
  • Detailed explanations of POF nuances

The POF 7-Day Mastery Guide takes a step away from addressing specific campaign ideas. You won’t find case studies or ready-made banners to be stolen. Tom makes it perfectly clear that the creative process is not his bread and butter. He even surrenders that many buyers of his guide will be able to use it to make more money than he does.

That’s a tour de force in self-deprecation, although probably a confession he’ll want to disown if the Warrior Forum pounces on the product.

What the 7-Day Mastery Guide really homes in on is the development of systems, algorithms and cold-blooded ruthlessness in the way that you create, manage and cull your campaigns.

Unlike Tom, I am not a number’s man. I find it difficult to launch dozens of tightly targeted, flawlessly labelled campaigns, while tracking the entire process through Excel and running figures of ‘continue/pause’ in my brain. But that’s not to say that I shouldn’t make the effort to embrace his approach.

If Premium Posts Volume 1 sought to gun down some of the psychology that lurks behind a successful ad, the POF 7-Day Mastery Guide is a structured and highly organized manifesto for getting profitable as soon as possible, while losing the least amount of cash.

Throughout the guide, Tom keeps his core principles of sustainability and scalability close to every tidbit that he gives away. I think many POF advertisers are guilty of sacrificing these qualities in the frantic search for profitability, so it’s definitely a mindset that should be taken onboard.

The information is broken in to 7 sections, with one for each day of the week. Knowing how proactive most affiliates can be, I’d have been tempted to lower my expectations and call it a 7-Month guide, but alas.

Here they are:

  • Day 1: Tom’s core principles, budget setting, loss limiting, basic targeting.
  • Day 2: Getting to know competition, finding images, writing copy.
  • Day 3: Ad creation, Photoshop batch processing, and split-testing mechanics.
  • Day 4: Effective tracking, organizing your campaigns, avoiding burnout.
  • Day 5: How to bid effectively, the concept of hurdling, session depth myths.
  • Day 6: Direct linking vs LPs, maintaining campaigns, scaling effectively.
  • Day 7: Preparing for offers to blow up, advance testing, and outsourcing.

The systems Tom endorses will almost certainly require a grand rethink in how you organize your campaigns. For example, after logging in to your account, what would you think if your campaigns were suddenly titled like this:

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I’d probably assume that I was having a stroke. But this is actually a hallmark of Tom’s immensely structured approach to his advertising. Campaign titles are decoded in to stone-dead giveaways of the targeting that lays inside, assuming you haven’t lost the wall chart. And as for the targeting? I found Tom’s insight in to compartmentalizing campaigns to be some of the best in the guide.

He explains the importance of session depth, frequency and login counts with great detail, refusing to settle for that annoying nugget of faux wisdom “users with login counts below 100 are golden, only target them“, as so many fall in to the trap of believing. There are some great tips for sustaining campaigns over long periods of time.

Tom once again resorts to mathematics to explain why campaigns adjusted to higher login counts need to be different from those going after the ‘new fish’. This is where his methodology for creating systems really shines through. Whilst most of us are busy judging POF users as either in or out of a target group, Tom stalks the users from cog to cog in his system. The guide shows, very effectively, how to maximize your chances of a conversion via layered targeting.

For experienced POF marketers, particularly those like myself who operate by instinctive catapultations of shite at the wall, Tom’s adherence to structure will get you thinking about how you can operate your own campaigns more efficiently.

I doubt that many marketers will have invested the same time or thought in to their own POF systems, and much of the information could be repackaged for traffic sources like Facebook where it would be equally relevant.

That’s not to say I’m a glowing advocate of every theory preached in this guide. Tom’s argument that 100 campaigns consistently making $5/day are better than one making $500/day has been used to divide affiliate marketers for years.

I fall in to the category that would much rather manage a single $500/day campaign, than spend my afternoon plugging tiny holes in tiny $5 campaigns. That’s just too much micro-management for my taste.

I also disagree fundamentally with one of the guide’s earlier suggestions that advertising to young men is easier than mature women. But I will avoid kicking up a fuss, blessed in the knowledge that this guide is likely to be consumed by a legion of Warriors who will follow that pointer to a tee.

As far as the quality of writing goes, I’d like to thank Tom for releasing an ebook that is readable, eloquent and a distinct improvement on many of the other ‘Mastery Guides‘ in circulation that have me gouging out my own eyeballs in disgust. Presentation is one of the areas where my own Premium Posts are in sore need of improvement, so I’ll be taking a page out of Tom’s book here. Literally. Sccchwipe.

All in all, I would recommend the 7-Day Mastery Guide to beginners and intermediates on the POF platform. It’s not flowing with campaign ideas, but then it doesn’t need to be. This is a practical, comprehensive and immaculate presentation on how to get your house in order. It will bring structure to your campaigns while focusing your mind on sustainability and scalability, the only qualities that really matter.

Recommended This Week

  • Check out the iPyxel blog for some free tips and pointers to go along with the POF Mastery Guide.

  • My own detailed assault on monetizing Plentyoffish is covered in Volumes 1 and 3 of Premium Posts, which have both received widespread praise. Grab your copies now. Also, watch out for Volume 4 which will be landing next month and covering some brand new topics that I think you’re going to enjoy.

  • If you’re a new reader, please add me to your RSS. Also follow me on Twitter. If you just can’t get enough Finch in your day, be sure to check out FinchBlogs.com, which is the twisted cousin of this blog.

Lessons Taken From My First (24) Years

I can remember only embarrassing figments of my last few birthday celebrations, and sometimes I consider that a blessing in disguise. Between the ages of 18 and 22, I must have untagged enough photos to fill an entire hard drive with scandal.

Yesterday by comparison, my 24th birthday, was a relatively sedate affair.

Instead of scraping pizza from a beer-sodden kitchen counter, I carved steak from a pool of watercress and braised shallots. Instead of being spanked, and whipped, and publicly abused by Geordie strippers with candles not designed for cakes, I enjoyed the quiet company of my girlfriend, who thankfully, was not carrying handcuffs.

Unlike those who create New Year’s Resolutions to focus on their goals, I prefer to wait until I’m hanging up my birthday cards. I use the moment to reflect on all that I’ve achieved, or haven’t, and I redefine goals for the year ahead.

I’ve always seen New Year’s Resolutions as a shameless merry-go-round of excuses. If January 1st arrives and you’ve missed your targets, there’s little sense of failure in setting the same goals again. But there’s something much more powerful about using your age as a measurement of development.

Before I turn 24, I want to achieve…

As opposed to the open-ended, “My New Year’s Resolution is to…

You could be setting the same resolution for the rest of your life, but you’ll never turn 24 again.

Most people don’t need to endure such a rigorous round of annual self-appraisals. But then, most people already have structure to their working lives. It comes in the form of a career ladder.

You aim for promotion at 25, a nice middle-management role at 30, senior responsibility at 40 and perhaps one day, with fingers crossed and wood touched, a stake in the company at 50.

Your career ladder is placed before you in granite stone. If you haven’t climbed sufficient rungs by your next birthday, you’ll choose politics or mismanagement as your justification, backed up by a hope, a prayer, and a promise from the wife that things will ‘fall in to place‘ soon.

I’m generalizing quite badly, but from a personal perspective, I never felt the same pressure to succeed as a 21 year old web developer, that I do as a 24 year old master of my own destiny. I think that’s partly down to having nobody to blame but myself.

We love hierarchies of order. For an Internet Marketer, there’s no hierarchy. We can only compare our fortunes with those posting screenshots of their earnings, and the forum members recounting stories of ‘how much I earned today’.

In a typical job environment, we look at ageing directors and senior managers with fading hairlines as the best representations of what we hope to become. These figureheads are reassuring to anybody with a 9-5 because they remind us that time is still on our side, or more importantly, that experience breeds power.

The same comfort does not extend to Internet Marketers, or anybody who runs a business online.

We are forced to look to the Mark Zuckerbergs of the world for our perception of what is achievable. The scale of relative achievement for online businesses is simply immense, and we formulate our own hierarchies around these vaunted young entrepreneurs. We want to be like them: rich, famous, powerful.

The fact that many of our role models rose out of nowhere to take the world by storm gives us many sleepless nights. The ambitious prodigy in his 9-5 may wish to leap up the career ladder, but it’s difficult to find examples where the road to success has been travelled at the speed of light, as it is so frequently by Internet millionaires.

The jump from office cubicle to director’s executive suite is daunting but clearly mapped. We assimilate that time, politics and good fortune will get us there someday, so we aren’t hard on ourselves for the years that go by where nothing seems to happen.

For an Internet Marketer, the years that pass without huge success can be crippling to morale.

When people like Zuckerberg transcend industries before leaving college, it scrambles our perception of the hierarchy. We no longer associate role models with those who have accumulated vast swathes of experience and paid their dues; we associate them with brilliance, innovation and the ability to rise from basement dwelling zeroes to billionaire heroes in the blinking of an eye.

The weight of expectation we shoulder by simply knowing what is possible in our industry makes it difficult to measure success in any reasonable manner.

In short, we lose access to all the excuses that justify the career ladder’s predictably slow ascent.

We’re forced to accept that any mismanagement, politics or glass ceilings are strictly of our own making.

The regular reminders that other young entrepreneurs are blowing up billion dollar empires before their 21st birthdays adds even more pressure to our lives. We compare ourselves religiously, and it’s difficult to keep success in perspective when the scale of achievement is so huge.

What kind of career allows for you to double your income on a yearly basis and still feel hopelessly at sea? I’ve tormented myself on many occasions, stargazing at the obscure wealth I know to exist, while resenting my own good progress just because some Internet Marketer somewhere is even further ahead.

These are troubles that are best kept in check by developing a sense of what success means to you as an individual, rather than as an industry average. So when I was setting my new goals yesterday, for the first time in five years, my #1 target did not involve taking over the world.

Some might call that a stain on my ambition.

Shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.

Well… I fucking hate that quote.

Every time I hear it, I feel like offering the dimwit a straight swap with one of the Russian Cosmonauts currently lost in space. Go and see how much they enjoyed missing the moon.

Whimsical ambition should never be favoured over realistic, achievable targets. And that’s probably the biggest lesson I’ve taken from the last year.

Recommended This Week:

Affiliate Marketing As An Investment Strategy

Carving a career in affiliate marketing is seen by many as the first fingertip on the entrepreneurial ladder. It’s high risk work with a suitably high reward. Perhaps it should be no surprise that at a time when stock markets are riddled with fear, and savings accounts are bordering on useless, our industry is the subject of much interest from anybody with money to burn.

I’ve grown to see affiliate marketing not so much as a long term business, but as a source of easy capital for the company I want to build. It funds my bigger picture. Yet every so often I get to speak to individuals who see the industry from an outsider’s perspective. They don’t view affiliate marketing as the cold blooded arbitrage it usually is. They see it as an investment opportunity.

To them, affiliate marketing is the goose that lays the golden egg. It carries the legendary hook of ‘doubling your money‘, even if those words are rammed home by experts with as much integrity as a broken record. Many smart affiliates are harvesting small fortunes from our industry, that much is true. When you hear such a constant barrage of rags to riches tales, there has to be some truth to the idea that affiliate marketing is one of the quickest methods of doubling, trebling and quadrupling your money.

One glance at the typical UK savings account and you will find that annual returns greater than 4% are a rarity, especially if you require direct access to your money. By the time inflation is taken in to account, your newfound spending power raises some tough questions. “Should I continue buying Iceland-range cheesy wotsits by the multipack? Or can I afford to upgrade to Kettles?

Decisions, decisions.

Affiliate marketing, to anybody sick of calculating the scant difference between 3% and 4% returns, is full of bold promises. It teases with countless fables of got rich quick stories, those that defy everything taught in Business Studies class.

I’ve never hidden my preference for running campaigns that achieve at least a 75% ROI. It’s a remnant of the shoestring budget I started with. To most business minds, immediate 75% returns are the sort of bullshit fantasies peddled by first-time entrepreneurs with their figures in a twist (forgetting to pay themselves, for example). But they do exist.

So does the golden carrot of potentially skyrocketing profits make affiliate marketing a suitable investment strategy? Or is it, to steal a particularly tasty lyric, a siren singing you to shipwreck?

If you found £100,000 to invest and had never touched an affiliate campaign, could you realistically expect to double your money? Does money buy you a better shot at success?

Well, ROI is deceptive, particularly in a field like affiliate marketing. The juiciest profit margins are a distant third in our importance stakes, trailing both scalability and sustainability.

Let’s say you have £100,000 to invest. You despise the typical savings accounts. You’re looking for a much greater return than the 4% which the proletarians live and die by.

Many people assume that as long as there are affiliates comfortably rocking 75% ROIs, it should be a walk in the park to beat the typical savings rates. If 75% is possible, 4% should be achievable while wearing a blindfold with your balls in the jacuzzi. Right? No, wrong. You’re assuming:

A. You will launch campaigns that actually make a profit.
B. You will invest the entire £100,000.

B cannot happen without A, unless your stupidity knows no bounds. And A cannot happen unless you’re naturally acclimatised to the industry.

On paper it looks pretty easy for an affiliate marketer to pummel that £100,000; to reap massive profits that are beyond the scope of banks, or even the stock market. But the percentages are skewed.

4% return on £100,000 leaves you with £104,000 at the end of the year. That’s a profit of £4,000. On par with a typical savings account

But what if you only get enough campaigns profitable to spend £10,000? In that case, you’d need to hit a 40% ROI to match the savings account rates.

Of course, there’s no reason why you can’t use a savings account and work on affiliate campaigns. Except that in most cases, you would erase your gains. As an investment source of infinite growth, the system is flawed. You’re throwing money at arbitrage, which is hardly a value investment.

The purpose of a savings account is to make all your money work for you. The mechanics of an affiliate business are completely different. Many would argue that having £10,000 to invest is just as good as having £100,000. Plenty of networks will pay you weekly so the cashflow is irrelevant. We aim to invest externally, not internally.

Every wise investor should make a habit out of reading the market before he shoves his dick in it. And what happens when you read between the lines of our industry? You hear, over and over again, that affiliate marketers are rushing to invest their money away from affiliate marketing. What does that tell you?

Even though we can sniff the delights of a 75% ROI, or taste the doubling of our money in an afternoon’s work, we know that like any market experiencing rapid growth – the bubble will inevitably burst.

Unlike the stock market, which specialises in exaggerated panic-stricken meltdowns, affiliate bubbles are burst every day.

It could be a Facebook account getting banned, the collapse of a top offer, or the bankruptcy of a once-great network. Our business plans collectively resemble a trip through the Chessington Bubbleworks; fragile and a little bit whimsical, to say the bloody least.

My advice to anybody looking to throw their money at affiliate marketing as a means of investment is simple: don’t do it. Use your capital to build assets that the rest of us are in this very business to fund.

Recommended This Week

  • For information on how to rock those 75% ROIs, and much more, hit up my Premium Posts. Also, watch out for Volume 4 which will be landing next month and covering some brand new topics that I think you’re going to enjoy.

  • If you’re a new reader, please add me to your RSS. Also follow me on Twitter. Thanks for reading.

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