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Meet MANU!  He’s an awesome, awesome guy that founded one of the most amazing pieces of news literature in our industry to date;  WTAFF!    WTAFF is a daily newsletter for affiliate marketers by affiliate marketers.     If you haven’t signed up yet do so right here

Let’s jump right into learning more about this awesome guy!


Could you introduce yourself for all the readers?

Sure. My name is Manu, I’ve been an affiliate for just over 3 years.

I’m Romanian, I live in Vienna, Austria, I’m a two-time Uni dropout and don’t regret that at all. Otherwise, a pretty typical introvert who spends a lot of time in front of the computer – just like many others in the industry.

Something less typical, but not unheard of is that I used to play quite a bit of poker in my early 20s, and it was my sole source of income for a few years – and wrote a book on it.

I’m also a moderator on STM Forum and spoke at a couple of Affiliate World Conferences.

I've just interviewed MANU - The guy behind the #1 affiliate marketing newsletter WTAFF!
On stage at AWA2017

Tell me a little about your beginning in the industry, how did you get started, why, etc.

I moved to Vienna like 5.5 years ago, to start a software dev company, with one of the co-authors of that poker book I mentioned.

We had your pretty typical ups and downs, pivoted several time through the years and at one point, our CTO, the 3rd partner in the company said he is burnt out and can’t do this anymore.

I've just interviewed MANU - The guy behind the #1 affiliate marketing newsletter WTAFF!
The founding team of that software company back in 2013, in our first office

That’s when we looked into what other things we could do, where would our skill set fit best, so I gave affiliate marketing a try, after talking to a few poker friends.

Signed up to STM, got approved on a few networks and traffic sources, and had the first campaign up and running in like 2-3 days since deciding to give this a try.

It worked out well, started making money after like 1 month of grinding campaigns for 14 hours a day.

Fun times to think about, was having dreams (or sometimes nightmares) about campaigns back then, always woke up afraid everything collapsed overnight.

People seem to always ask how long it took you to get profitable and expect an answer in days or months, but it would be more accurate to think in hours. Pretty sure I spent over 400 hours in that first month, reading threads, talking to people, coming up with angles, doing banners, landers, etc.

So if someone spends 1-2 hours a day on affiliate marketing, I am pretty sure they won’t start making any decent money in one month.

How have things changed since then?

Well, I’m no longer afraid things will just collapse overnight, so I get really good sleep these days.

I think affiliate marketing is harder to start nowadays, I caught a good upswing in the mobile space when I got into it. I ran white hat mobile display, if you can imagine that!

But after 3 years, you almost don’t recognize the industry anymore. Many popular affiliate networks from back then aren’t so big anymore (new ones replaced them of course), the best traffic sources are no longer pops and display.

I've just interviewed MANU - The guy behind the #1 affiliate marketing newsletter WTAFF!
Arriving at STM Island after AWA2017

What verticals and traffic sources would you recommend for someone rather new nowadays?

It’s hard to name one only. I think anything between Facebook, Google, native ads, pops, adult can work but you can’t really just buy traffic with an aggressive angle, send to a few offers and make money from it.

Regardless of the traffic source, you really have to try and improve the lifetime value of visitors to more than just one conversion. You should try to gather emails, Messenger subscriptions, push, etc.

Generally try to pay once and sell multiple times, instead of buying the same impression over and over again.

What campaigns are you running?

Funny enough, not doing any typical affiliate campaigns these days.

Why did you stop? Is affiliate marketing doing so bad?

It’s not so much about affiliate campaigns being profitable or not. My goal was to use income from affiliate marketing campaigns to create a real business, as vague as that sounds.

It could have been a performance marketing agency, creative agency, maybe owning an affiliate offer, whatever. Like I said – vague.

Early this year, I sat down with the team and discussed what makes most sense for us this year. We can still pursue affiliate campaigns, learn the latest tricks and run them to death, only to get back to the drawing board a few months after.

Or, we could try to build our own product. Which turned out to be WHAT THE AFF.

What is that?

It’s a daily newsletter for people in the affiliate marketing industry. It’s a quick-5-min read, that shows up in your email inbox every weekday at 11GMT, packed with latest news, trends, tech and actionable advice.

We try to present all this in an entertaining way, using pop-culture reference and insider affiliate jokes too.

How did you come up with it?

So around mid-February this year, we made a list of what sort of products we could build, all based on our existing skills. We liked what we put on the list and decided it’s what we want to try out.

We mostly failed, we even had a crypto related product (no, not binary, lol), but all platforms banned the topic early in the year, so we stopped that. Like I said, we wanted a sustainable, own product, not the latest hack.

Then I ran into, which is a daily newsletter for people interested in finance, investment and the likes.

It was absolutely the best email I had ever seen. The structure, the length, the tone, and of course the topic, were just a perfect fit for me and I liked reading it everyday.

That’s when I thought to myself: “There’s so much noise in our industry, I would probably read something like this for affiliate marketing. Let me see what I can find”.

I couldn’t find anything even remotely close, so we decided to try something out internally, just as a Google Doc to see if we would have content on a daily basis and if we would actually like it.

That was a yes, so then I reached out to a handful of friends in the industry to sign them up to a closed beta of the newsletter. They liked the concept, helped me tweak the format, and then we launched it publicly at the end of April, basically on the 3 year anniversary of being an affiliate.

How is that going so far? You are not doing anything else aside from it?

It’s been getting overwhelmingly positive feedback. One of our readers actually printed a T-shirt with our logo and wore it at Affiliate World Europe in Barcelona. It was an amazing surprise!

Myself and Karolis at AWE2018

Given how positive our readers are about it, we decided that this is definitely the “own product” we wanted, so it’s now the only project. Not testing other stuff out, not running affiliate campaigns.

We still haven’t figured out monetization for it. What I think makes the most sense is to offer companies a paid section for each email, and we tested that in the past couple of months.

Looks like a promising avenue, because we write the content for the companies, so while we clearly tag what is sponsored to not mislead our readers, we also keep the same tone for it.

That’s a big work-in-progress though, because companies are not used to our model at all.

What are the future plans for it?

The grand vision for this would be to become the go-to publication for all things performance marketing. But that’s a loooooong way to go.

In the near future, let’s say for the rest of the year, we want to grow our readership and figure out monetization (so if any companies are reading this and want to reach a few thousand affiliates, you know where to find me 😉 )

We have a few things in development there, and we just recently launched this giveaway for readers that includes a pass to Affiliate World Asia 2018 and dinner with myself and 5 best in the biz guests a couple of days before the conference, in Bangkok. If anyone wants to enter, they can go here:

Taking a step back, what do you is the most important thing when doing affiliate marketing?

It’s probably not so different than other industries – you have to know the right people.

And it’s not just about superficial networking, but actually learning what others are about and trying to help them reach their goals.

I could not have launched WHAT THE AFF without all the guys who listened to my idea, gave me very constructive criticism, and then also shared it with their friends and their email lists.

I assumed I know just enough people that are willing to help with this to try it out. I don’t think someone completely new to the industry can try such a project.

So, to answer your question – your network is really important. Not your friends on Facebook, but people who say yes to a call with you to help you out, that spend time with you at conferences not just for the drinks.

Maybe as a newbie, it’s more important to have a trusted source of information but once you figured that out, it’s meeting the right people and actually connecting with them (not just on FB or LinkedIn).

Where can people find you, if they want to reach out?

I’m pretty easy to find – I guess the easiest one would be Facebook. Either on my personal account, or on WHAT THE AFF’s FB page.

If you google my name, I should be pretty much monopolizing the first page results, lol.

In person, I’ll be around Affiliate World Asia, and will be speaking at the Arab Affiliate Summit in Casablanca this year.

I've just interviewed MANU - The guy behind the #1 affiliate marketing newsletter WTAFF!


Thanks for reading!!!

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