There is a phrase that has been running through my mind for the last two years. Today, it is my mantra.
“Let The Machines Do The Work”.
It came to me during a time when I didn’t have much of a social life and I spent all of my waking hours focusing on the ad campaigns I was running online.
I was hyper-focused on the minute-to-minute details of each campaign. I made 100s of adjustments per day.
After several weeks of losing money I realized that these constant changes weren’t helping. They were actually costing me time and money. I was investing 16 hours a day into this thing and getting nothing in return.
When I realized this, I got up from my desk, got in my car and drove into Hollywood to meet a friend for dinner.
We ate dinner and talked for two hours. During this time I didn’t think about the campaign. I didn’t check my phone for stats or anything. I just let it run.
When I got home, the campaign had had it’s first profitable two hours ever.
I laughed out loud and let the lesson sink in.
“Let The Machines Do The Work” I said to myself… and it’s been floating around my head ever since.
Hustle & Grind?
There is a common misconception in the affiliate marketing industry that success will only come to those who “Hustle” or “Grind”. And while this may be true – (you do have work hard to make money online) I think it’s only part of the puzzle.
The trick is knowing when to work hard but then also knowing when to relax. Because there is definitely a time for both.
Lately I’ve been experimenting with how the amount of time I work on a campaign relates to its profitability. I wanted to know if the number of hours I put into a campaign relates to the amount of money I make.
So far the answer is no.
More effort does not always equal more money.
I recently shared a screenshot taken directly from my Voluum tracking system. In it I showed the ROI of four new campaigns that I had launched that week.
See the responses on Facebook. Be sure to Like the page while you’re there.
I asked my Facebook Group to guess which campaign I’d spend the most time working on that week. Most of the group answered #4, because it had the highest ROI and appeared to be the most successful campaign.
But the answer was actually #3. The campaign that I had spent the most time focusing on did the worst. And I believe its failure was directly related to amount of time I spent hyper-focused on it.
Now let’s be clear. This screenshot is definitely not scientific evidence that working less on a campaign will magically make you more money. Let’s not get crazy.
But it is an interesting pattern. And as you should know by now, being able to spot and exploit patterns is pretty much what campaign optimization is all about.
What To Do Instead
So if I’m no longer spending 16 hours a day tweaking campaigns, what AM I doing?
- These days, I place most of my focus on setting up campaigns correctly. This includes choosing offers that have a proven track record of performance and using the exact traffic sources that they’re being run on. This is crucial, you can’t setup a terrible campaign, walk away and expect profits.
- I create several angles and ideas and set reasonable budgets that I can afford to lose without stress or worry.
And then I walk away.
After a set amount of time (could be 2–3 hours or 2–3 days) I check in to see how things are going. I have progress indicators that tell me if/when to change budgets and bids. I use statistical significance calculators to tell me if the data actually means anything. Then, if needed, I make these slight adjustments and then go do something else.
While I’m gone, the data comes in and the numbers pile up. Together they construct a picture that I’ll be able to review later down the line and adjust if necessary.
This laid back approach to campaign optimization has (so far) proven to be the most impactful thing that has ever happened to my business. And it seems to be working for several of the select few affiliates that I’ve been working with behind the scenes.
In other words… I’m a believer.
If I can reduce the amount of time I spend working on something – and end up making more money. Then sign me up.
Let The Machines Do The Work
If you’re currently struggling with making a campaign work, or if you’ve been sitting in front of your computer for weeks with no profits to show for it, I invite you to test this theory.
- Put all of your focus into setting the campaign up correctly. This is the time for hard work. Invest your time talking to affiliate managers, spying on what other people are doing and building your angles, ads and landing pages for launch.
- Set the budget at something that’s not going to stress you out. One of the most stressful things you can do to yourself is leave the budget on a new campaign wide open overnight. You can’t sleep, you wake up ever 2 hours and check to make sure things are ok, and if things go wrong – your night is ruined. Set the budget to 2-5x the offer payout (or whatever you’re comfortable with) and relax knowing that even if everything goes wrong, you’re only risking a small amount of money.
- Press play. Once you have everything setup, start the campaign. I like to watch things until traffic starts coming in. You want to make sure that flow is working correctly. Ad click > Landing Page > Offer page. When you see that it’s all functional, congratulations… your job is done.
- Walk away. What you do now is up to you. You can either focus on launching your next campaign, go see a movie with a friend, grab dinner with your family, or just lay down on the couch and have a wonderful, long and well deserved nap.
Let The Machines Do The Work. Allow the campaign to flow without interruption. Give each ad and landing page enough time to be truly tested Allow the data to pile up enough so that it actually means something.
And most importantly… Give yourself a break.
No hustle, No grind.
Let The Machines Do The Work.
Hey Malan, Thanks for this tip.
I used to make many changes in a day; I followed your advice and I can see good results.
I started allocating only 30-45mins per day in campaign adjustments and here is the result:
By spending only 30-45 mins in a campaign adjustment; I find time to think about campaign
#Let the Machines do the work.
Thanks for the tip. Keep them coming.
Stan Oleynik says
Nice one bro!
Great wisdom Malan. I find that sometime when I walk away and come back some of the campaigns have failed my last 2 email submits did badly and then I just get rid of those. I did this yesterday and saw 5 conversions for a $1.60 email submit. Baby steps but I’m slowly getting to the $10 mark and hopefully this will soon fly past and then inching my way to $20, then $30 and so fourth.
Tom Mullaly says
“See the responses on Facebook. Be sure to Like the page while you’re there.” <<—— man you are good Malan.
This is one of those game-changing posts. Data that shows how revenue earned is not a pure function of time worked really forces me to ask how I can work smarter.
Working smarter is the only way to uncover/create competitive advantage.
It's like a zen idea— unrefined grind/hustle are in a way the *easy* path ironically, and might lead me only to further grind and hustle.
Malan Darras says
Hey Tom – i’m not above asking for FB Page likes. Would love to grow that group. 🙂
And yeah man, after 7-8 years of working hard, it’s interesting to see how ‘pulling back’ affects things for the better. It’s one (of many) of life’s weird backwards truths that shouldn’t work, but does.
Tom Mullaly says
Hey Malan– hope you know I wasn’t being sarcastic in the least; that line jumped out at me as evidence of the way a guy with your level of game just exhales original CTAs/value propositions, even in passing like that. And asking for likes when you’re helping a lot of people for free? Talk about fighting the good fight. #ltmdtw
Carlos Valiente says
Great post man! Im gonna put this to work myself as well. I’ve been doing quite the opposite on almost every campaign I launch and building up “campaign anxiety”.
FYI: I just started following your blog man and you got some great material. Keep it coming bro and I’ll keep on reading.
Justin Garza says
I am actually going to test this a bit more – I need to learn to let things go – but I think you mentioned it on another comment, or tweet but are you just doing it for entertainment or money when you spend 16 hours a day on campaigns. And I hate to admit a little bit of both.
A+ – great info.
Great article Malan, what would be your advice running RON on traffic sources where you can’t set a max budget per placement?
Not very good when you launch a campaign, leave it and come back and one or two rubbish placements have taken up 70% of your budget.
I guess you could write scripts to pause placements; but I’d like to hear any input you might have.
Malan Darras says
hard to say without knowing the source and campaign. but you can always give the entire campaign a daily spend budget you can walk away from. then open it up more after you’ve eliminated loser placements.
Thanks for the response, appreciate it.
Pop traffic, where you’d just be throwing money away leaving a fresh campaign unattended in many geos.
I’m on constant watch on campaigns, a month ago I was spending 8k per day and was stressed to not check it every 20 mins everyday even though it was profitable.
Now this month I am losing 500-1000/day and super stressed watching stuff. Maybe 1 or 2 days per week I break even now.
I have to watch things. The machines are not behaving unfortunately and I think it will take a whole new tear down to get back too profit.
Ads, landing pages, angles.
PS: Any tips for breakeven camps that were profitable? 😀
Andy Fizzybubbly A says
Sounds like you’re either:
1) Stressed about money overall,
2) Stressed that parts of your campaign might crap out (which cause you to lose money).
I used to be the same but why not follow the advice from Malan and set a budget that doesn’t keep you on edge all the time? This would allow you to step back and in the event something goes wrong you won’t lose your entire float.
Outside of that you can always program some custom tools to do periodic checks on each critical part of your campaign (let the machines do the work). This is a solution I have implemented because I was much like you at one point.
Malan Darras says
Hey Back2CPCs, this is almost impossible to answer without knowing the whole story of what happened. But based on what you said – you sound a lot like me.
When I have a campaign that goes from big profits to losing money. First) I look at what I did that might have broken it and fix it if possible. Second) If it’s losing money I decrease the spend dramatically to protect against losses. $8k/day spend becomes $800/day or less until ROI picks up. Three) I throw completely new ads at it to see if I can make it catch on again. Fourth) If that doesn’t work I create several new angles, just as I did in the beginning and start over.
Also, setup an account at Pingdom or similar that will alert you if your LP goes down, that way you don’t have to check every 20 minutes.
Appreciate the response.
The issue is I have to keep running even at a loss or I lose cap. ( Lead gen)
It seems I just cant get the costs down now a days, even when I do get low costs, when I scale it, it goes and smokes some cpc meth. ( Fb)
Petre Veluda says
I like the relaxed mood you take when you approach campaigns. My observation is that, a campaign is actually an offer that people see, so people might behave differently during the day or times of the week. Considering this, you should ideally run a test for each hour of every day for a week, right? Weekends might behave different than Mondays or Wednesdays and so on.
So a 2-3 day run without touching anything, in a ZEN affiliate marketing environment 🙂 makes total sense.