I just returned from my first ever Think Tank conference for ShareASale affiliates. ShareASale (affiliate link) is an affiliate network that is especially blogger friendly. I recommend them all of the time. They're actively reaching out to bloggers because as I've noted before, affiliate networks love bloggers for the quality content they can bring. ShareASale even graciously sponsored my ABC conference last year.
I didn't really know what to expect as far as how big the conference would be or the format.
FIRST CLASS ACCOMMODATIONS
First, ShareASale CEO Brian Littleton is INCREDIBLY GENEROUS. He's a bit of a hero (or should I say legend) to everyone too. It's the ONLY conference I've been to that cost so little and delivered so much value. The hotel – Chicago Intercontinental on the Magnificent Mile – was absolutely gorgeous and the service was stellar. The food was incredible too. Not just meals but the snacks between every event. I was never hungry. They even had Chicago dogs and Chicago style popcorn. There were around 300 people with the majority being bloggers.
There were not very many sessions but the two classes for affiliates showed how to pull reports on ShareASale and how to elegantly direct people from your content posts to posts that make you money (see the image below). I learned from both – there were reports I had never checked until I learned about them. I want to try using a call out box in the center of a post to link to another post that has products in it.
They also went over the tools to create and share content from ShareASale merchants. Check out this post about using the Product Showcase or the Make A Page feature on ShareASale. I like how he put the products in line with the post.
We did have 15 minute discussions but it was super loud and 15 minutes goes by quick, especially when you're sharing the table with about 10 other people. I did learn something from Missy Ward of Affiliate Summit (aff) and another affiliate that made it worth the effort to communicate. I'm so ADD that focusing in when there's a ton of other things going on is really challenging.
GENERAL VIBE: OPEN AND WELCOMING
I sat next to famous people who've made millions and next to brand new affiliates and merchants who were just beginning. The thing about this industry is if you put in the effort there are a lot of people willing to help. It's not like a blogging conference where there might be some attitude (look at me, I'm internet famous!). You don't have to worry about what you wear, your age, if you know anyone else there, etc. You can just be yourself. There's no attitude and people are approachable. To illustrate this – I caught a Lyft ride with an affiliate I had just met in the closing session. Elaine and I talked for hours and we both learned even more just hanging out at the airport.
THE MOST VALUABLE PART OF SHAREASALE THINKTANK FOR BLOGGERS
The most intense and valuable part of the entire conference are the one-on-one meetings with merchants. It's a great way to brainstorm ways you can work together, get to know what they offer, and start a relationship. Like Joe from Fanantics says in his recap, you have to be open minded. There may be programs that don't seem like a fit but end up working for you. As he said, just because you're not a sports fan doesn't mean your readers aren't. Ironically, I started a private affiliate program of just me to sell baseball tickets for the local pro team!
Meeting with merchants was a chance to see and take photos of products that you otherwise just see online. I wish I'd taken even more photos of products. I'd even take them of the affiliate managers so I could remember them later. Here's one I got though and it's adorable. I fell in love with this romper Fanatics had on display even though they don't have BYU (they have BYU and a ton of other teams though).
To illustrate how helpful it is to know your affiliate manager, I pinged Joe on Facebook to get the link to the exact product I took a photo of. He responded immediately. Wow.
For example, there were several check affiliate managers. I learned so much about what each program offers. It's not just checks either. If you have superhero fans, there are address labels with Marvel characters. If you are a Christian blogger there are checks with scriptures written on them. They also have RFID blocking wallets and purse organizers.
Here's some checks that I added using the Make-a-Page feature. Unfortunately it doesn't have all the products available to add to this showcase, but here are some favorites:
Here's what you can make on ShareASale, in honor of Fanatics, here's an example of ShareASale's Product Showcase. Rather than products that I selected, I put in a keyword and it shows products and rotates them based on that keyword. I put in BYU Cougars (where I went to college):