November 13, 2023 0 544

Interview With Stefan "Affpal" Muehlbauer: the Leading Expert in Affiliate Management

Stefan "Affpal" Muehlbauer has emerged as one of the top experts when it comes to affiliate management and everything surrounding this rapidly growing field.

Since 2002, when he started his first professional role, Muehlbauer has focused on sales and recruiting top sales talent. In 2010, he transitioned from the finance industry into online marketing, working in various business development, affiliate management, and affiliate team lead positions.

He has also spoken at many affiliate marketing conferences as the thought leader in the affiliate management role. He has also been a top-sought educator for new affiliate managers and has created training programs for those interested in affiliate management positions.

Fast forward to today, and the side hustle has grown into a full-fledged personal brand under the name Affpal. Muehlbauer's expanding portfolio includes:
 

  • 2 YouTube channels on affiliate management and the dating industry.
  • An HR service for hiring and training affiliate marketing talent.
  • Consulting on building successful affiliate programs.
  • A translation agency specializing in affiliate marketing content.
  • An industry concierge service
  • Head of Business Development of the “Masters in Cash”  dating direct advertising network.
  • A recently launched book called The Affiliate Management Starter Kit.

With his deep expertise and growing platform, Muehlbauer has established himself as an authority in the affiliate marketing space. If you are an affiliate manager or looking to get into an affiliate management career, you would want to miss this exclusive interview. Let's learn more from the man himself:

What originally drew you to affiliate marketing and becoming an affiliate manager? Was it intentional or did you just stumble into it?

My journey into this field was more a stroke of luck than a well-planned career move, much like many others who weren't actively seeking online money-making opportunities or affiliate roles. I used to work in a corporate job selling insurance policies. It was during that time, while training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, that I met someone who owned an online dating company. He saw me working hard in my insurance job and offered me a position as a sales director in his company. The decision was a no-brainer for a young man:

"Would you like to purchase this insurance policy for €50 per month?" versus "We've got these adult dating offers that are killing it."

I was a complete newbie, and it quickly became apparent that there was no proper education in the field, especially if you weren't aiming for a career as an affiliate marketer.

What initially attracted you to a career in affiliate management? Was it the ability to work remotely or the pay?

Not at all. When I made the switch, I was already managing 13 insurance agents, earning more than I did in my early years on the job. Initially, I worked in an office for the first two years. It was the dynamic nature of the industry that drew me in. Insurance, being an old economy, didn't offer the excitement and fast pace that I craved.

Let's talk about the role of an affiliate manager. What are the main responsibilities, and what does a typical workday look like?

The most important part is to be a trustworthy consultant for your affiliates. By being trustworthy, I mean to build an honest partnership. Don't push products that are not great just because the boss wants to have more traffic there.

You also need to be a bit of a business developer, especially if you don't have a dedicated person for that. Additionally, you have to provide feedback from the market to the company, whether it's to the product team, advertiser managers, or the marketing department. This helps them create a focused sales-supporting action plan.

How much can new affiliate managers expect to earn, and how much do the experienced ones earn? Also, what does the regular daily work schedule for an affiliate manager look like?

It's a tough question with many variables. I've seen people start around €700, while others in higher-paying countries begin with €3,000. I prefer companies with uncapped commission plans. Some people make a solid five-figure income monthly from account management, and I've heard of an affiliate manager earning up to $150,000 per month. Personally, I'd choose a company with a lower base salary but a higher, uncapped commission.

A typical day starts by catching up on overnight happenings, with email communication being less time-consuming due to the shift to instant messaging. Then, I dive into stats to gauge partner performance and react quickly to negative or positive trends. Other tasks include addressing affiliate requests and proactively presenting opportunities to scale their—and ultimately, our—business. I also dedicate time each week to self-education and market research.

What are some common mistakes new affiliate managers make early on working in an affiliate network or advertising network?

A common mistake is failing to strike a balance between the affiliate's interests and the company's needs. Some managers simply chase traffic without providing additional support, often using phrases like 'Bro, can you send more traffic?'

Instead, the approach should be different, more collaborative, asking 'What can we do to help you scale?' On the other hand, some managers overpromise to affiliates, investing time in arrangements, often with other departments, only to discover that the affiliate isn't genuinely committed or serious.

As an affiliate manager, one is also responsible for attracting new affiliates to work with the affiliate network or advertising network. Do you have any tips for finding and vetting the right affiliates to work with long-term?

Usually, the best affiliates are those with whom you build a personal connection. Social selling, a buzzword of 2023, is a great strategy for our industry. Seek out partners, whether online or offline, who align with your values and share a similar level of motivation.

When there's a genuine connection, scaling together becomes an obvious aftermath.

What have been your most effective tactics for growing affiliate partnerships over time?

The goal is to make the life of the affiliate as easy as possible. Provide everything you can, so the affiliate can fully focus on what they do best: running traffic. This includes offering promotional tools, especially when the affiliate is new to your company or vertical, providing deep insights into what works for their type of traffic, and even assisting with tasks like setting up links and callbacks.

As an equal partner, you should also celebrate success together, such as congratulating them on their first sale or revenue milestones. Be solution-oriented, especially when it comes to cash flow and payouts, and proactively communicate when issues arise on your side.

The affiliate marketing industry is filled with new trends all the time. How crucial is it to keep up with the latest trends and innovations in affiliate marketing? What resources do you recommend?

Staying informed is incredibly important in our fast-moving industry.  Our industry is so fast moving and missing out on a trend can even ruin a business. The best sources are affiliates. They detect trends often faster than us. Once you have somebody mentioning a new thing to you, try to investigate it more. Try to find people in your team who also heard about it and work together on it. Involve the affiliate in this process whenever possible. Besides that, account managers from other companies are often a valuable source. I recommend also following the industry outlets like Partnerkin. It's their job to report about the newest stuff. For the latest strategies, please check out the Affpal YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/@affpal.

Have you leveraged AI in your role? How is it impacting affiliate marketing?

AI has a more significant impact on affiliates and the industry as a whole compared to account managers. However, I use AI in my daily work, and it's incredibly helpful, especially for tasks like data mining and text editing. Recently, I gave a speech at the Game 2023 event in Athens about best practices in Affiliate Management. During the presentation, I also shared a case study from one of my iGaming clients. What's important to note is that the entire framework of this presentation was created using AI.

I used Canva to prepare the presentation on affiliate management. Instead of starting from scratch, I only had to replace the content and create some images. Typically, creating a presentation takes me around 5-6 hours, with the majority of that time spent on the design aspect, as I'm well-versed in the content. However, with the help of AI, I completed the same task in just 2 hours. It's a game-changer and I love it!

Looking ahead, where do you see the industry evolving in the next 5-10 years?

The average affiliate will face increasing challenges. It's becoming quite common for large affiliate teams or in-house marketing teams of advertisers and networks to completely take control and dominate major traffic sources.  As someone who runs an HR agency for the performance marketing space, I often see media buyers and SEO affiliates looking for stable positions.

On the other hand, the standout performers are the innovative individuals, often young and creative thinkers who come up with fresh strategies that others haven't considered. With the abundance of software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions available for running their own offers, affiliates are gradually transitioning into advertisers themselves. In a broader sense, I see the entire industry thriving, and this growth will demand more skilled professionals. I already have plans to establish an association for account managers with a consistent educational standard.

For long-term success as a manager, what are the most critical skills or traits to develop?

For long-term success, building your personal brand is key. This doesn't necessarily mean doing panels, podcasts, etc., although they can be helpful. What's more important is having a reputation for reliability and treating affiliates as equal partners.

Keep your promises, be honest about problems and issues, and approach challenges with a solution-oriented mindset. This way, you'll not only have a long-lasting career but also see continuous growth.

In your view, what sets elite managers apart from the average? How can people level up?

Stay coachable! It's the most important characteristic from day one. Many professionals become somewhat arrogant after a while and stop being open to learning. That's fine if you're content with staying where you are. But if you want to grow, you have to improve yourself every day.

This improvement doesn't only apply to industry trends but also to skills like social selling, business development, marketing, and basic technical knowledge to provide the best possible guidance to your affiliates.

Have you made mistakes during your career that taught you something valuable?

It was some kind of arrogance. One of my mistakes was being overly confident in my ability to remember everything discussed with affiliates. Nobody can do that. You need a system in place. While I'm not a fan of using Excel sheets to handle all requests and tasks, I've found that having a proper CRM in place makes it easier not only for you but also for the company to keep track of your efforts, not just the numbers.

In fact, the most popular service I offer among all Affpal services is setting up and providing basic training for a CRM.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received about working in the performance marketing space? How did it help guide your path?

Help without expecting anything in return. Over time, you become an authority, and then you shouldn't be too shy to ask for favors or charge for your services.

It's a more general piece of advice, but it helped me significantly in building my HR and consulting business. I arranged over 50 job placements in this industry before ever earning a single euro from it. Over the years, I became the go-to person for job opportunities or candidate recommendations.

You recently released your beginner's guidebook to affiliate management. What core topics are covered and what should people expect to learn from it?

It’s a guide that is covering really all aspects of the journey as an affiliate manager. It starts with explanations about our industry and the tasks that an affiliate manager has to cover.

This enables candidates to make an informed decision about whether this is truly the path they wish to pursue. The biggest part is the work as an affiliate manager, how to find new affiliates, reactivation of old ones, the managing itself but also stuff like personal branding how to get the most out of conferences, and even how to manage your finances.

It finishes with explanations of all the mentioned terminology. I noted down here observations of many years and it’s daily use in my work. For sure that book is also relevant for more experienced managers or team leads that wanna make the training process of their hires less time-consuming. You can get it here https://www.affpal.net/the-book/

Conclusion

Stefan "Affpal" Muehlbauer's unique journey into affiliate marketing was unplanned yet shaped his emergence as a leading expert in program management. His extensive experience has allowed him to share valuable insights through presentations, books, and various services, with the goal of professionalizing the field.

By remaining open to learning and building trusted relationships, Muehlbauer continues to drive innovation while cultivating his influential personal brand. He recently released his book The Affiliate Management Starter Kit, available at https://www.affpal.net/the-book/. For Partnerkin readers, he has created an exclusive 25% discount code Partnerkin25 to get the book at a reduced price.

You can also connect with Stefan Muehlbauer on Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/affpal/ to stay updated on his latest projects and insights.

How do you like the article?
#affiliate marketing #affiliate management #affpal

Buy traffic: +$50 RollPartnerkin