Blue Ribbon Panel: How To Choose A New Network

Imagine you are the CMO of a major brand wanting to try performance marketing for the first time. How would you choose between the 500 networks your team found in a quick search online? Who would you talk to? Who could you trust?

Or put yourself in the position of a big publisher wanting to monetize your inventory. How could you tell which networks pay their bills? Which have the best tracking? Or even which ones shave commissions?

The difficulty in identifying reliable network partners may be the biggest single brake on the growth of the performance marketing industry: it discourages new companies from realizing the opportunities available and, when advertisers and publishers choose badly they can end up feeling bruised and ripped off.
We asked the members of our Blue Ribbon Panel for their thoughts on this critical  issue. JP Sauve of Max Bounty,Clickbooth’s Erin CigichMelissa Feemster of Rakuten Affiliate Network, co-founder of W4 Jason Durant Walker ,Daryl Colwell of Matomy Media NetworkCristian Miculi of Avangate and Matt Frary of SmarterChaos all had a lot to say.

mThinkSo, at a time when it is easy for just about anyone to set up a generic network in just a few hours, how can an advertiser or publisher tell the difference between a good network and a poor one?

Erin Cigich; The barriers to entry for starting a network are low. As a result there are hundreds if not thousands of “networks.” Advertisers and publishers should look to partner with networks with proven longevity, integrity and a solid reputation.

Matt Frary: There are established networks that have been in the industry for a very long time.  From an affiliate point of view, I would check those networks first for any offers or merchants with whom I would like to partner.  Any network that feels “templated”, or their affiliate managers cannot be reached, should be avoided. Once you have decided to start working with a new network, only send a little traffic at a time until you have been through a few payments cycles.

Daryl Colwell: I would also say that the mThink Blue Book is a great to start. The results combine opinions from industry thought leaders & the day-to-day folks of the affiliate space.  In addition, you can never beat getting a referral to a network from a trusted source.

Melissa Feemster: The key factors are scale, stability, experience and compliance rigor. Scale should be measured in terms of publisher volume and depth as well as in advertisers. Established large scale provides network effect benefits of increased growth and choice, and leads to stability as well.  When a network has large advertisers who push volume levels, you can be confident in their systems as you push up your own volumes.  Experience means the ability to provide strategic guidance based on historical data. Finally, a compliance focus is essential – the network must have rigorous processes in place.

JP Sauve: Until you have worked with them for a while, it really is difficult to tell if a network is solid or full of risk. While not a foolproof method, taking two minutes to double-check the age of the network will likely help you pick out the better ones. Poor networks are generally mismanaged and tend to not stick around that long. When you look at networks that have been in business for over a decade, at least you know they are well-managed, affiliates are getting paid, and advertisers are coming back for repeat business.

Daryl Colwell: There are several networks that have been in this space for quite some time and those networks have survived for a reason. I’d always suggest starting with one that has those years of experience and has seen it all. I would also say that the individual you work with within the network is arguably more important than the company itself.  Make sure they have, at the very least, tangential experience working with campaigns similar to yours.

mThinkWhat about advertisers in particular? Are there things they should specifically consider when looking at network partners?

Cristian Miculi: I think you have to look at the network as a platform first: a good network should meet the advertiser’s current and medium term needs – affiliate management tools, communication tools, reporting, etc. Then, in terms of the business perspective, it should have the affiliates in the right niche that can drive revenue for the advertiser (I’m talking here about the specialized content affiliates in particular), offer recruitment possibilities for the advertiser and also be able to deliver quality support and services – e.g. managed affiliate services. The advertiser should also check which of their competitors are using the network in question – that’s always a good indicator.

Jason Durant Walker: For advertisers, the best and most conclusive way to discern between networks is simply the quality of the traffic they deliver, but that’s something you can only find out after trying a network. How do you assess quality before you begin working with a network? Watch out for over-promises. Some networks will say anything to land a new advertiser including making guarantees that they will deliver high volumes of conversions—and pushing hard to get the campaign in as exclusive. The reality is, however, there is no way to predict performance without market testing. And if a network is confident in its ability to deliver quality traffic, it won’t shy away from competing with other networks to prove its worth. So look for networks that are honest and modest in their claims, and that offer sober counsel on how to best bring your offer into the CPA marketplace.

Erin Cigich: For advertisers, choosing a network with longevity is even more important. There are simply too many intricacies – fraud detection, quality optimization, managing cash flows – that many new networks unfortunately don’t take into consideration. These kinds of issues also happen to be ones that can tarnish an advertiser’s reputation or ruin their business if they are handled poorly.

Melissa Feemster: The network personnel are critically important. Look for a tenured client service and leadership team that knows the industry inside out. In the end, it often comes down to a having a feeling of partnership that leads to success, and that then serves as a demonstration that the relationship is potentially sustainable for many years ahead.

mThink: It is clear that the key for everyone is that experience and stability count: in a business as competitive as performance marketing, a network can’t survive long unless it’s really good. After that, then the quality of the personnel and the platform are important in initial selection. In the end though, in the medium- to long-term, it comes down to how much business the network can drive. In affiliate marketing, as always, performance matters.

Zero to $2-Million Generating Leads Online in 5-Years with Matt Frary

Zero to $2-Million Generating Leads Online in 5-Years with Matt Frary

For the first time, Matt Frary, talks about how surviving the Tsunami in Thailand inspired him to build multiple online businesses, become a millionaire at 31 and start,, a unique performance based affiliate marketing & lead generation agency from scratch from his home-office, grew it into millions in revenue and made it into the Inc 5000, in less than 5-years.


Chief of Chaos, Matt Frary, is smart and hard-working but early in his marketing career he struggled, financially. Returning home after surviving the Tsunami, he was broke, confused and looking for career direction. An email from his friend, changed his life…

“Call me! I just made $9-Million doing what you taught me to do!”

That email inspired him to start his first online business ROIRocket and grow it to $40 Million total revenue over 6-years before exiting.


– Used to run the affiliate program for Twitter

– Became a millionaire at 31 after successfully selling ad network, ROIRocket.

– SmarterChaos $2.2M online revenue in 2014, on pace to double revenue in 2015.

Best Business Advice

The best way to fund your company is not to raise money from investors, but to go out and get sales.

Worst Advice

The advice to “hire a professional CEO” cost him millions of dollars in losses. (Find out why in the full interview)

Tweetable Quotes



If Matt Frary Was Going to Write a Business Book, Based on His Experience It Would Be Called


In this raw, behind-the-scenes interview you’ll also learn:

– The new type of ad network that’s generating 10x more revenue than other networks – and “spitting out money like a virtual bank machine.”

– How often you need to “refresh” or change your online ads to maximize click-through-rates

– The (shockingly) simple but profitable business model he’d follow if he had to start from scratch no money. AND the huge market of consumers he would focus on.

– The powerful business lesson he learned working on the Mercedes Benz SmartCar – that helped grow SmarterChaos so quickly

– The fad all marketing “experts” and “gurus” are preaching – and what you should really be doing.

AB #347 | Matt Frary: Retargeting, Real Time Bidding and the Evolution of the Affiliate Marketing Agency

In this edition of the Affiliate Buzz, host and Instructor of the Affiliate Marketers BootCamp, James Martell, is joined by Matt Frary, the CEO and co-founder of SmarterChaos. In this edition they discuss the evolution of the affiliate marketing agency.

Matt begins this edition by giving a good description of who SmarterChaos is for those who missed his last interview on the Affiliate Buzz.

It is a little agency with 14 employees and 70 clients based behind a coffee shop in Castle Rock, CO. Matt wanted the affiliate agency to infuse large organizations with small hometown values. Part of that goal is for SmarterChaos to keep the felling of a personal, small hometown agency.

Recently they have announced some important news that they had joined forces with Digital First Media who own 60 newspapers around the world. This has allowed them to expand what they can offer their clients as they’ve become a Google Premier SMB.

There are only 20 Google Premier SMBs in the world. Any company with this honour gets unprecedented access to Google. This includes the ability to run campaigns on beta products and use ad extensions unavailable on regular accounts such as product feeds.

As Matt states, there are a lot of advantages for aligning themselves with such a big company. Another benefit Matt explains is the access to 19 live bidding exchanges which access 100,000 websites with their inventory of ads. Then they can bid on those impressions to aid clients targeting specific customer profiles at the right time in the right place.

This means that SmarterChaos can now handle almost any part of the customer journey.

The Evolution Of The Affiliate Agency

Back in the late 90s and early 00s there were consultants who were good at running affiliate programs. They would go to an advertiser and say they could run their affiliate program and employ best practices, etc. The consultant would then run a couple of campaigns. They would partner with networks such as Commission JunctionLinkShare and BeFree to build a program and become a program manager.

Then the role evolved so they became Outsourced Program Managers. These individuals had deeper relationships with the previously mentioned networks. They had preferred pricing and access to relationship databases to aid the programs they ran. An OPM would manage between 75 and 100 programs but on different platforms.

SmarterChaos has evolved even further. They create proactive recruitment campaigns to build direct channels. They consider themselves agnostic, which means they will work with networks, but they prefer to work direct.

They have an outbound team who make calls to match the right affiliates with the right advertiser.

During the podcast, Matt also explains the following:

  • What are Real Time Bidding exchanges and how do they work?
  • How does SmarterChaos track the service journey?
  • How does SmarterChaos ensure they are advertising to the right market group?
  • How Impact Radius supports the monitoring of internet campaigns?

More Than Just The Last Click Attributor

One of the biggest changes which has happened in the market during recent years is the change from the last click attributor model. Now companies are realizing they have to monitor the rest of the customer journey and the corresponding ROI.

This is one of the reasons why SmarterChaos has joined forces with Digital First Media. It allows them to offer their clients tracking of their customers across the whole of the service journey.

How Can Affiliates Take Advantage of Re-targeting

Matt believes re-targeting is going to be a very strong strategy for affiliates and you should take advantage of the technology. You should look at the ad exchanges and what inventory you can allocate. Ask yourself if there is a place on your website to take advantage of and look at the different exchange codes available.

This strategy, where you will get paid per 1000 impressions, will be particularly good for those with high traffic websites or with certain products.

Matt’s Lifestyle

Finally Matt speaks about his life story and how he can mix his business ventures with his lifestyle. During this part of the podcast, Matt discusses some of the following:

  • What Matt thought about his previous company and how this led to the creation of SmarterChaos.
  • How he can still conduct business with his four businesses while still maintaining the lifestyle he desires.
  • What Matt’s important ingredients are for success.
  • What Matt’s dream is.

Finally Matt discusses the Chaos Makes Sense Podcast and some of the success stories they have had including the Dollar Shave and

Mentioned in this episode:


Are You Asking for It? You’d Better!

Affiliate Marketing is traditionally a sport played best by the big guys – the big beasts of the industry. Companies such as eBates, ShopAthome, RetailMeNot, Vertive or SurfMyAds always are near the top of any affiliate manager’s list when considering who should be targeted. Yet the truth is that there are often huge potential traffic sources that are ignored in this situation. In particular, there are very powerful content creators such as blogs and content sites that may be overlooked. These sites may only consist of a single person in their proverbial basement, or a perhaps just few people in an office somewhere, but they still may have huge influence online. Why is it that this part of the affiliate world is so often ignored?

You often hear people refer to the Pareto Principle; you know the rule that says, “20% of affiliates will contribute 80% of total affiliate sales.” Thank you, Vilfredo Federico Damaso Pareto. You have contributed to our conversation over 100 years after you first came up with the idea.

I’m pretty sure Pareto wasn’t an affiliate marketer, but people in this industry have been quoting his rule for a long time. In fact, those of us that have been in the business for a while now have modified the rule to state that actually just 5% of the affiliates in your program will send 95% of your business.

The question is whether affiliates who are not currently in that golden 5% have the ability to change the situation?

Yes. The answer is yes.

These affiliates need to be asking themselves, how can I be heard over the larger affiliates? How can I drive more sales with the traffic that I’m providing?

Affiliate marketers who want to do better should begin by engaging more with their brands and advertisers. Make a phone call, start an instant message conversation, reach out via email, or send smoke signals. The truth is that affiliate program managers actually WANT affiliates to reach out to them. Any affiliate can become part of the 5% driving the traffic to these advertisers and in so doing can make more money than 95% of the marketers out there.

The first and most important step is for these affiliates to start asking for it. What is “it”? It is whatever they need in order to engage more closely with the brand and the advertiser so that their promotions are more relevant, engaging and effective. There are at least five things that every affiliate can ask their affiliate manager for that will help them become part of the 5%.

Ask For a Product To Review
You are essentially the virtual sales staff for these advertisers. You have to get to know the product, product selection, pricing, and everything there is to know about the product before you can sell it. You wouldn’t go out and sell someone’s widget without trying that widget first….would you? Don’t be afraid to ask for free samples or the product to be sent to you. You’ll want to take pictures of it, review it, and write about it. Nothing is better than original content to attract traffic to your site, and nothing creates new content like your own opinion on the product you are marketing.

Ask for a Coupon or Unique Promotion
When you reach out to an advertiser or program manager, you are going to want to ask them what deal they have that you can uniquely promote. You see, if they have 20% off their product somewhere else on the web, but you have to sell it at full price, it’s like being in a boxing match with Mike Tyson with one arm tied behind your back and no ear guards. If the advertiser values you as their selling partner, they will offer you a unique promotion, or some unique product to promote that is limited to their affiliate channel or to you as an affiliate. If the advertiser is using promotional code tracking such as what is available in Impact Radius or that can be uniquely tracked to you, then you will get more credit for sales than you are getting today. Your traffic will start to
convert better, the search engines will pick up your unique deal, and it will create more buzz around your site.

Ask for Pre-Written Articles or eBooks
This tactic is one that is not often employed, but is very effective. Many advertisers have pre-written content about their products, reviews, or eBooks that you can use as more content for your site. You can weave this into your original content and your experience with the product, and therefore appear as a subject matter expert on this particular product. Many affiliates use those eBooks to offer free to visitors to their site in order to incentivize them to join a mailing list. This is a huge advantage for you, as we all know growing your email list is pure gold and you can sell the advertiser’s product to your list and then offer more products to them down the road. If an advertiser has a highly technical product or service, pre-written content can help you explain
and pre-sell that product so that once the user hits the site, they are already making an educated decision to purchase or sign up. Pre-written content can increase conversion rates on your traffic and therefore make more sales, earning you more money.

Ask for a Site Analysis
Sometimes the best question is the hardest one to ask. When you reach out to an affiliate manager or program manager, ask them “What do you think of my site? How could I better sell your products? What would you like to see on my site?” Many of us sit for hours coming up with content or building our sites, and many times we aren’t looking at it from a sales perspective. If you ask for advice or a site analysis, the advertiser can collaborate with you to build the optimal pre-sales content that will help convert your traffic into more sales and/or leads. If you ask the advertiser, and the advertiser or program manager doesn’t have a good answer for you, I’d ask them how THEY sell their products. Many times an affiliate simply puts a banner around content
that is not relevant to the product in the banner, and then they wonder why they are not selling anything or why their clicks do not convert. If you find a really experienced program manager or advertiser, ask them for five things that you could change about your site that they think would help drive more sales. This will show you are proactive, and it’s likely that the tips will help or provide you ideas you had not thought about.

Ask What has Worked For Other Affiliates
When traditional sales teams try to repeat success, they often interview their top sales person and determine what he or she is doing right, and then try to extend that to the rest of their sales team. This is a also good approach to affiliate marketing. If there is one technique, topic, methodology, or type of traffic that is working better than others, the affiliate team of that advertiser should be happy to share that with you. Don’t expect the advertiser to share specific sites with you, as that wouldn’t necessarily be fair to those affiliates that are top performers, and there is certain etiquette that should be followed so as not to upset your highest performers. Ask for the top conversion rates, and make sure you understand from what type of traffic that conversion is derived. See if the advertiser can give you specific media that has worked well. Does email traffic convert better or are blogs the winner? Make sure that you are comparing apples to apples, because advertisers also like to pump up their stats, using conversion rates from incentive sites or loyalty programs which will always be higher. Once you find out what has worked, see if you can repeat it and be realistic about what type of affiliate you are. If you are not an email affiliate, and the advertiser works best on email, its best to move onto another program.

At the end of the day, affiliate marketing is not an easy job and it is not all about the four-hour work week. You have to come out of the basement, get on the phone, and start finding out how to sell more. The more conversations you have with the people for whom you sell, and the more that you know about the products you are selling, the more you are going to make as an affiliate. It seems so simple, but how many times have you been on the phone this week? How many of your advertiser program managers do you know by name?

Ask for it. You shall receive.

SmarterChaos Roll Call – 10 Things You Didn’t Know About…Our Chief of Chaos

SmarterChaos Roll Call – 10 Things You Didn’t Know About…Our Chief of Chaos

Continuing with our summer blog series, SmarterChaos is introducing key team players with 10 Things You Should Know.

Here are 10 things you should know about Matt Frary, CEO and co-founder of SmarterChaos.

1.  Starting SmarterChaos has been pretty cool, and maybe even a close second to marrying my beautiful wife.  One of the most exciting days on the job was reaching a point where we, as the official founders, began hiring great folks and moved into our current office location.  At our current growth rate, we might be needing an office move soon.

2.  Self-proclaimed party starter – when I walk into a room at a large party, most times I am asked to tap the keg!

3.  Launching SmarterChaos has taught me so much in regards to my work life – most importantly, work for your purpose, and focus on your happiness.

4.  Every kid wants to be a Super Hero when they grow up – admit it.  Well, now that I am officially a grown up, if I could be a Super Hero I would be Captain BS (BullSchnit).  I would have the power to see through other people’s BS and fight against those who try to BS others.

5.  I am not going to lie, the guys at Dollar Shave Club have some pretty funny advertisements.  They crack me up every time I watch them!

6.  My last trip I went on – well, everyday is a trip at SmarterChaos.  But sipping a Mai Tai on the beaches of Hawaii was pretty amazing last year.

7.  I am a happy dude.  But, I will get angry when I see someone preying on people just trying to do good.  Do not mistake kindness for weakness.  I’ll come at you like a spider monkey all jacked up on Mountain Dew.

8.  Listen up marketing affiliates – here is my one piece of advice for you.  Become invaluable and you will always be paid well.  Build a content rich environment that will drive sales in a way that advertisers can’t do for themselves.

9.  Giving out even more advice…advertisers for marketing affiliates, it is so important that you target, execute, measure.  Test everything, but fail first.

10.  Finally, of course I think working at SmarterChaos is pretty rewarding, but what makes it so awesome is the people.  Our team is the best team in Affiliate Marketing, and our Advertisers are the best online.  If we don’t invest in or people or work with those we respect, our bi-product will be crap.  We have to believe in those around us, given them enough reigns to be successful, and just enough rope to hang themselves.  We are only as good as the closest five people around us.

Matt enjoying the beautiful Colorado mountains.

Chief of Chaos taking a break to enjoying the beautiful Colorado mountains.

Matt Frary Tells it Like it Is

Matt Frary Tells it Like it Is

Murray Newlands had a bit of time in between beers at the Denver Affiliate Meetup, run by SmarterChaos, to speak to Matt Frary, the owner. He talks about how SmarterChaos focuses on Custom Acquisition through new methods.  He talks about their newest client, Ellie, a site focused on fashion needs of the active woman — how they have created customer engagement quizes to get them involved with the site and how to sell them more things. It’s a very interesting interview that talks about everything about lead capturing, email marketing and working with brands that really want to develop a successful performance marketing strategy.