Affiliate Marketing – Sweet Spot Between Numbers and People [Affiliate Marketing Legends Interview with Brook Schaaf]

It’s been some time since I’ve published an interview in my “Affiliate Marketing Legendsseries, and today I’m excited to bring you my newest guest — Brook Schaaf of FMTC.

Here is his brief “profile” and my interview with him follows under it. Enjoy!!

Brook Schaaf

Name: Brook Schaaf
Current Role: Owner
Place: Austin, TX, USA
Find him at    

Geno: When and how did you get into affiliate marketing?

Brook: I stumbled into affiliate marketing right out of college when my brother (and later business partner), Forrest, gave me a referral to a young Among other marketing jobs was the affiliate manager role; I took to it like a duck to water.

Geno: What do you love the most about affiliate marketing?

Brook: Affiliate marketing is in a sweet spot between numbers and people. As much as the space has grown, there remains a sense of community along with the opportunity.

Geno: If there was no affiliate marketing, what would you likely focus your efforts on?

Brook: As I live in the country now, probably raising chickens or harvesting rainwater. 😉

Geno: You worked as an in-house affiliate manager (for Zappos,, and, and then ran an OPM agency for quite some time, and now you’re offering a tool for affiliates… What are the deadliest mistakes that you’ve seen people (on both sides) make when approaching affiliate marketing?

Brook: The big one has got to be a program losing business-threatening dollars to fraud. Of course, the same can happen in most any advertising channel. Aside from this, it’s probably more that companies underinvest in their affiliate programs because they require time and effort.

Geno: What are the top things that you wish every brand with an affiliate program had or did better?

Brook: Well, more with promos, certainly! Deal and reward sites are pillars of our industry but remain under-appreciated, even as more retail dollars go to Amazon and other campaigns lack ROI. Along these lines, a lot of programs don’t put their money where their mouth is when it comes to implementing advanced tracking, which is to both their and their partners detriment. Finally, not enough program managers are responsive — a perennial issue — though at least their competitors often are.

Geno: What 3 ingredients of affiliate marketing success can neither an affiliate, not a brand succeed without?

Brook: Affiliates need to be able to digest some kind of traffic they can acquire, meaning that they have to choose an angle, like advertising arbitrage, SEO, community, existing-list monetization, etc. This probably means someone in the company has to be good with numbers and they probably need someone in the company to be good at business development. For brands: it’s interesting that you use this term rather than “merchant” or “advertiser”, as I think of careful control when it comes to brands. You can have this to some extent in the affiliate space with careful coordination. On the transactions side of things, conversion rate is often the most important part of the offer (something I learned many years ago when I moved from Zappos to, where the former converted multiples better than the latter); otherwise, relationships and financial management are also important. Plus, if you have something that makes you stand out in the space, like a great agency or personality, that definitely helps.

Geno: What would you do differently had you had a chance start everything all over again?

Brook: You know, I am really not sure. Other kinds of business might have been more lucrative but you never know what would have happened. One thing I can say with confidence is that I would have tried working at a few more companies early in my career. Another thing I can say is that affiliate has been a great space to be in. I left for a year in 2005 to work on a political campaign. While it was exciting it was also not the most positive culture and I was very happy to “come home” after it was over. And I haven’t left since. Here’s to many happy returns!

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