I recently changed jobs and Timothy Walsh from HireMinds, LLC an Internet and biotechnology recruiting and placement company. Tim helped me in the hiring process. Tim has a great background in Internet marketing. We decided it would be great if we chatted a little about the industry.
John: Tell me about your background.
Tim: Well, going way back, I majored in English and communications in college. I really gravitated towards English. I enjoyed writing. During college I managed to get an internship with a marketing communications agency. I got out of school in 1994, when the job market was still not so great. I stayed with the agency for about a year after graduation. I then went to work for a company that put on business conferences. It was a great training ground and where I got a lot of direct marketing experience. I was with that company for about 4 years. By the late nineties it was an interesting time. Companies were adopting the Internet as a marketing tool. I wanted to gain some experience in the Internet industry. I joined TScentral, a search engine for trade shows that also provided software to the trade events industry. That was my first entry into the online world. With TSCentral, I was also doing affiliate marketing. That job led me to Be Free. At Be Free, I was running affiliate marketing campaigns for clients including Best Buy and Microsoft. Ultimately that path led me to HireMinds. We specialize in recruiting people with interactive marketing backgrounds. Having an interactive marketing background makes it much easier to recruit the right candidates for the types of positions we staff.
John: The Internet has changed a lot of industries in the last few years.
You have worked in Internet marketing. Did you ever run across an affiliate who used PR effectively in generating business?
Tim: Yes. People traditionally think of PR as generating press releases and media relations. But PR, or “good buzz” about a company, really starts with doing good business and treating customers’ right. The Internet has a lot of sub-industries. For example, the affiliate marketing industry is a sub-industry of online marketing. Affiliates and the companies involved in the affiliate marketing industry have created a community around this vertical. I can think of two large and successful affiliates, ebates and schoolpop; they did a good job of attracting visitors and adding value in the form of rebates (in the case of ebates) or school fundraising (schoolpop); they were not directly trying to generate PR, but their business models and the way they treated their customers built up positive buzz. By building a good name, those companies earned a good reputation in the affiliate community. I also saw the flipside of generating PR in the affiliate industry. Some companies developed a bad reputation for not treating their affiliates well, not paying them on time (or at all), etc. Word quickly spread through discussion boards. So, quite often, the best PR comes from doing good business and treating your customers’ right. Word spreads fast, especially online!
John: That's really important.
Tim: Yes, your affiliate program has to have (or build) a good reputation if it’s going to be successful. Basically, you just have to treat people right.
John: How has affiliate marketing changed after the recent recession?
Tim: I think the industry has changed a lot. I saw it change quite a bit when I worked for Be Free. Companies have consolidated. Technology providers Be Free and Commission Junction merged. Companies that still have affiliate programs are concentrating their efforts on managing and leveraging relationships with larger affiliates. In the early days, there was a race to get as many affiliates as possible into a company’s program. Over
time, companies have concentrated on developing their larger affiliates. In the beginning, affiliate marketing, like the Internet itself, seemed to have unlimited potential. Now companies have reduced their expectations. Affiliate marketing has to be one part of the overall marketing mix. Companies have more realistic expectations about affiliate marketing specifically, and online marketing in general.
Lastly, true affiliate marketing effectiveness really depends on company’s business model. Affiliate marketing works well for retailers; it proved not to work well if you only want to generate traffic to your site. Also, affiliate marketing is more effective for companies who already have a strong brand. With a well-known brand, a company can attract more quality affiliates to join their program. Larger affiliates want to join the program immediately; they know they will get paid.
John: We have talked a little about your background with trade shows. How have trade shows changed in recent years and why?
Tim: I’ve been out of industry for a while now. But, I know the trade show industry experienced a definite downturn following 9/11. However, I don't think trade shows are going away anytime soon. People will always want to build relationships, and you can start doing that at trade shows. Even with the impact of 9/11 and Internet bubble bursting, the industry has come back to a pretty strong degree. Companies that are in the conference business typically stay with it. It can be very profitable.
John: You are now working in the recruiting industry, how do you use technology to source candidates?
Its funny you should ask, I was having a conversation about this very thing with our president earlier this week. He has been in the industry a long time, over 10 years. He was in the job before the dawn of the Internet. He told me about the process they used to recruit people. It was completely different. Before the web, if you spoke with someone, you'd have to have them fax you their resume, and then it had to be retyped into a database. And all the notes on a candidate would be handwritten and filed. Technology has revolutionized the way recruiters work. But at the end of the day, computers and the web is ultimately just a tool to make our job easier. In some ways it makes our job more difficult. Monster.com is a terrific resource for employers. Even with tools like Monster, employers need recruiters to find the best candidates, which is mainly done by target recruiting based on the exact background an employer wants candidates to have. Tools like Google are also pretty effective, but even so it's really not our number one resource.
John: I recently met heather Hamilton. A Microsoft recruiter, who recruits marketing employees, she writes a blog. The blog is all about her job. She is finding the blog useful in her job. How do you think a blog might help you?
Tim: I think it could be a useful tool, certainly we could add one onto our website. We could share interviewing tips for candidates. Recruiter to recruiter, it could be a useful way to share intelligence.
John: Is there a question about PR, marketing and the Internet you had wished I had asked?
Tim: Yes, what’s the state of the high tech job market. Now, things are continuing to trend in the right direction, especially in the areas of search engine marketing and marketing analytics. With marketing analytics, as companies focus more and more on online marketing programs, there is a lot more data available to marketing managers. They need to market smarter, and need people who can analyze data and optimize the programs and websites once they understand what the data is telling them.
John: Thanks very much for taking the PR Communications interview. I really enjoyed your comments about PR in relation to affiliate marketing communities. I’ll be writing a blog article about that issue.