Affiliate World Europe is coming up soon in Barcelona so we’ve cashed in the opportunity to speak with industry leader and The Wolf Marketing CEO Maor Benaim. A fellow countryman and an uber-talented driven media buyer who started with one goal in mind of becoming a millionaire, Maor took us through his own personal journey in the affiliate marketing industry, his self-taught lessons, do’s and don’ts, correlation with other industry aficionados and speaking in public for the first time.
Let’s hear it from ‘The Wolf’ himself.
Tell us a little about who you are. Where are you from, how did you get started, and why choose affiliation/media buying in the first place?
I’m 30 years old, a Capricorn, and originally from Jerusalem which is the second poorest city in Israel, I think. I worked in a few advertising agencies, and there was a point in my life where I said to myself that I’m going to stop and think about what’s next.
Looking back now, when I attended a lot of personal development courses like Tony Robbins and such, I did everything ‘by the book’ exactly as to what was recommended but without actually learning from them, meaning, everything kind of came naturally. I defined a very clear goal. I knew I wanted to become a millionaire. I knew I wanted to have a lot of money. And I was lucky because I also had the ‘why,’ I had a reason, which is something that sometimes takes others a long time to figure out.
I wanted my mom to go overseas and have fun and eat and drink well instead of staying home and sleep, work, cook, and clean every day. So, I decided I’m going for it. And with this goal in mind, I was looking for an industry to start from.
I was a website builder before, and in the website building business, you have a lot of convincing to do and basically sell, sell, sell to your clients. And they sometimes over-negotiate with you, miss payments and such, and I knew I needed to focus on a field where the money comes right in and that I, as sort of a pipeline, am transferring a lot of money.
When I’m handling a lot of money, I have the benefit of manipulating it here and there. That’s how I got to media buying.
At first, I didn’t even know or fully understand what Media was or what that word even meant. So, I just started and slowly noticed that I’m very good at it. And the reason I got more and more into it was not just to make a lot of money. I don’t actually feel like I’m working. I’m enjoying every minute of it no matter how many times I’m doing the same thing. I’ve also managed to build an entire life around it. My friends today, even the ones I’m not working directly with, are people which I’ve met in this industry, and this whole thing completely changed my life.
The first year was intense. People think I’m exaggerating, but I seriously did not do anything but this. Apart from the things you normally do like eating, sleeping, I sat down and studied. I didn’t go out, no girlfriends and no friends. I would come home and obsess over this completely.
If you want to succeed at anything, you must dedicate some time and obsess over what it is you want to do.
What was that specific campaign you learned from most?
Wow. To be honest, I did so many campaigns as an agency and as a solo affiliate. My answer is kind of complex because, first off, there were a lot of campaigns which I learned a great deal from because they came in a time when I had less knowledge. Other campaigns I just loved because they went well and converted right from the start and all I did was optimization and scaling.
I won’t say that my campaigns are like my children and I need to choose between them, but I will say that each campaign is a journey and a process. It sounds a bit funny because lead-gen is lead-gen, but each brand, field, and angle you use on a campaign, product and each client is slightly different, in case you’re doing it as an agency. So, it is a bit of a journey for me, and there’s no one campaign I can spot out.
I would say that the campaigns which I could scale and significantly inflate are the campaigns I learned most from.
I found out that when you run a campaign for $500, $1000 and $3000 a day you don’t learn as much as when you spend $10,000 or $20,000 no matter the platform.
Are there any specific mistake(s) you remember in your journey so far?
I think my biggest mistake was thinking I know everything.
Many times, I approached both clients and campaigns with a clear thought that I understand what I’m doing, the platform, etc. and each time I discovered something new. And two years ago, I finally realized that I don’t know what I don’t know and it’s ok. I don’t look at it as weakness, not that I tried to hide it before or anything.
I see that in every summit and conference, there’s at least one speaking session, a mastermind or a conversation that I come out of thinking ‘wow’, I’m going to change all my campaigns, and that’s a great idea I didn’t think of. So, I think one major mistake is thinking you know everything, even for a minute.
Looking back, what is the one thing you wish you would have done differently?
Those who know me or researched about me know that I’ve had a few tackles with some people, which is ok. It’s part of doing business with others over time and in big scales.
I think I would change two things about myself: on one side, I would like to be less naïve about people in the industry. I would like to sign contracts and not just take people’s word for it. On the other side, I would tell myself I should never lose myself over charismatic or strong individuals and know how to recognize real power from a fake one.
I used to play Poker semi-professionally. It taught me a lot and one of the things that stuck with me for doing business in general and in this specific industry is that many times the psychology of Poker indicates you should always look strong when you’re weak and vice versa. People tend to believe those who seem strong, and I truly believe in authenticity and transparency. The main reason for believing this is that I really think that the majority of people in this industry, are relatively smarter than most, and people can see through that, so there’s no hiding yourself anyway.
In an ever-evolving industry and as someone who is clearly passionate about online marketing, what is the latest development you find especially exciting?
If I zoom out a lot, I think that people are getting tired of Facebook and Google’s strict approach and advertising policies. I think that leads to older industries like emails and SMS and newer industries like push messages which have started to grow because people started noticing them more.
I also notice a huge development in affiliates outsmarting the black-hat world. The techniques, platforms, and everything have turned official. Instead of affiliates having to manipulate here and there, there are a lot of platforms that provide accessibility to black-hat and fight Google and Facebook’s AI, which are extremely smart and know to recognize false activity, with an even smarter AI. And it’s interesting to see how huge structures like Google and Facebook, which have almost infinite resources as opposed a solo affiliate, are fighting these solo affiliates and losing if I’m not mistaken. And these platforms are completely legit.
You launched The Wolf Marketing agency in 2007. How was it for you to suddenly transform from a solo affiliate to an agency founder and cater to other clients?
I actually launched the agency first and acted solely as an agent for a year-a year and a half, and then I became a solo affiliate. This transition wasn’t sudden and happened quite slowly.
When you start as a platform that takes 1% of the advertising agency budget and then work with a client on a CPL (cost per lead), you’re defined as an affiliate. You risk your own money, etc.
I would say that I’m in this hybrid place where I don’t have to worry about materials and creatives, yet I still sum up my own funds, and then completely turn into an affiliate – create my own angles and offers and run forward. Even when I get the materials, I like to go over and refine them a bit.
I started the process with the goal of learning. I learned how to recruit clients, sell to bigger and bigger clients, take a product and introduce it. Above it all, if I look back for a second, the main thing I learned is that you don’t have to manage a client, there’s no such thing as managing a client. You should come from a place of creating conversation, connection, and coordination of expectations.
Many people, agencies mostly but also affiliates, that love creating illogical expectations or false promises, like ‘each campaign I run is successful and makes a profit,’ etc. In reality, some campaigns fail, even most campaigns fail, and it’s a long-time process.
Many times, I tell my clients that their product is this and that and we’re not necessarily going to profit from it, and it’s important to keep our expectations realistic. I like explaining to them that patience is always needed and that this is a journey.
When you work with clients, you normally introduce yourself as Maor Benaim or as The Wolf Marketing agency?
It depends. If a client needs a consultation, I introduce myself as Maor. If his product needs branding also, I introduce myself as an agency. If it’s an evergreen product with scaling potential demographically, geographically, etc. I introduce myself as an affiliate.
As a “geek who sits most days in front of the computer” and I’m quoting you here, how did it feel like getting on the stage for the first time and speak in front of an audience?
I’ll take that as a compliment, so thanks.
It’s something I dreamed about a lot, and I felt like it’s going to be a challenge I want to push myself into achieving on the one hand, and other the other hand, it shouldn’t be completely difficult.
I’m really glad I got to experience this ego boost. It became my fuel. I’m doing this for the sake of doing it, and it’s one of the best things ever. I’m also lucky not to have that stage fright and I really enjoy it.
I love sharing a lot of information, and that’s the main reason I decided to go for it. I believe that knowledge should be shared.
A lot of people and establishments still adopt the old-fashioned thinking that knowledge shouldn’t be shared and once it is, they’ll only lose or something like that. And if there’s one industry this old thinking doesn’t apply to is our industry.
As much as you want to fly solo, you have to make connections, and there will always be someone who knows something you don’t, and I think you should always share with the people you strategically cooperate with.
This answer comes up on many other interviews where affiliates say they love sharing and teaching and even opening courses for that purpose.
I’m less in that direction. I think that the moment you open a course, it becomes your product and if it’s your product, a lot of time it’s also your focus and here’s when it starts to become a problem.
I’m teaching and consulting, but I’ve dedicated a low bar which I defined in advance. I do it to meet people, and my price is very low, so I wouldn’t feel like I’m doing it for the money. And many times, in my consultations and classes, I’m learning a lot.
The whole public speaking thing began on one morning about 18 months ago, when James Van Elswyk visited Israel, and we met in Tel Aviv on a rainy day, and he suggested I’d start lecturing. I remember my heart was racing.
The first time I spoke was at a GeekOut event and simultaneously jumped into deep waters and spoke at the Affiliate World Europe conference in Barcelona.
What is the best tip you can give newbie affiliates/media buyers?
There are two main tips I can shell out. The first one is for anyone who is a salaried employee and doesn’t want actually to be one.
If a person is a happy salary employee, and their focus is on their mental health, then being freelance might be difficult for them, also family wise. But if a person is eager to work solo, then this industry can make it very easy on them compared to other industries.
I say, go and push yourself to break that 9 to 5 chain and make some profit.
I truly believe that this industry enables it relatively easily. So, this is the first tip I can give. I know it sounds trivial.
The way I got over my stage fright, for example, was to turn around the fear. I basically told myself that if I wouldn’t do this, I’ll lose so many other things like a crazy opportunity I received to speak at an event, which is something hundreds of people want to do. The fear of losing this experience, the networking opportunities, etc. was bigger than my stage fright. And that is exactly what happened with the 9 to 5 thing.
People are afraid to leave their jobs because they’re afraid of failing, not making enough money, not providing for their family, and I think that the fear they should turn around is that same fear of not being able to provide enough for their families, miss opportunities and getting older without having enough money for quality time with their families.
My second tip is a bit more specific and talks about the so many success stories and case studies this industry has seen.
These conferences and videos on Facebook can create a false perception that everyone is successful besides you and it’s something we experience quite a lot in our lives. It’s like when you’re in high school, and you think you’re the only virgin in class and how awful that is. In most cases, that is not true, and you must understand that most campaigns you run aren’t going to make it and that’s ok. That’s part of the process. And with each campaign, you’re getting better.
It’s the same as conversion rate. In many campaigns, the conversion rate is less than 10%, and that’s ok. That is how it’s supposed to be. And don’t get into something in the first place if you think you’re going to ace every campaign and become a millionaire in a second. You need to have realistic expectations.
Affiliate World Europe is coming up soon in Barcelona. As someone who has been speaking at world events for a long while now, what do you look forward to most of the event?
I think that Affiliate World is the Olympics of affiliation. It’s one of the most amazing conferences that combine amazing people with great knowledge and fun, and you really don’t need anything else.
One of the things I’m most quoted about is that in these conferences, your Instagram life become a reality for a few days.
Generally speaking, each conference is like a journey where you come in with no idea how you’d come out. You don’t know if you’d gain a new partner or knowledge that would change everything or an entire experience you didn’t expect. Everything happened to me in these conferences. So, on the one hand, my expectations are very high, and on the other hand, they’re not specific because I have no idea what’s going to happen, and I love it.
What added value will you provide attendees this time around?
What I love doing most, and it’s one of the reasons I started speaking, is that I hear people spend a good 10 minutes talking about themselves and by the time they get to the point, there’s not a lot to work with.
I wanted to give practical tools to people who are doing or wanting to do this. What you can take from my lectures you can utilize on the same day into your campaigns or at least plan your next campaign.
My lecture is going to be no more than 30-40 minutes plus Q & A and will discuss on how to create campaigns on Google display, why create a campaign there in the first place, when should you choose Google display.
The main thing I’m bringing this time is a methodology that took me long to develop that I call ‘ The Wolf’s Optimization Pyramid’ which is a real working formula that I developed spending crazy amounts of campaign money and today it’s working.
I use it every day on each campaign, whether it’s lead gen, E-commerce, or whatever. So, this is the main thing I’m bringing, and I’ve noticed many people already asking me about this and has a need. I also gave a teaser on my profile, so you can check it out.