Todd Crawford- Affiliate Marketing Legend and Why…
Last year I commented on Tim Storm receiving the Affiliate Summit Legend Award. This year there were three very worthy contenders and Todd Crawford walked away with the honor. Since this honor is named after me, for some reason, I always feel it is a duty to talk about the Legend Award Winner if I know them well enough…so far I have known them and quite well. My only regret was missing the ceremony, but I was so fatigued from the Gonzo experience- I feel asleep from exhaustion. But let’s talk Todd.
I can tell you Todd likes motorcycles, he is married to Lisa, has one dog (a Maltese named Bobo) and three cats, used to live in South Carolina, went to school in Minnesota and studied German (he also lived in Graz, Austria). He collects fine wines, drives a Infiniti G35, used to be into punk music, and he is really passionate about what he does and the people he works with and for. I know these because he has talked with me over the years, like Legend Tim Storm he takes the time to bond and form friendships and relationships.
Todd and I have spent time wine tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley, lunched in downtown Santa Barbara, enjoyed a French meal in New York, (With a Legend in his own category- Roman Godzich an executive for Rail Europe- another great story.) and spent many hours talking shop on the phone or at a conference and by e-mail.
The key here is “relationship formation”.
Rolling Back The Clock
In the case of Mr. Crawford I can roll back the clock to 1998- nearly a decade I think. Commission Junction was an upstart network that later sprouted train whistles and I was a small affiliate trying to figure out the ropes after building an explosive local site in 1996-1997 for a member of the WV House of Delegates. I had created a massive burst of traffic, but had NO CLUE what to do with it. Still it was enough to motivate me to quit my nursing job, drop out of college, and go for it- it felt “right”. I was either insane or naive, perhaps both, because it took me all kinds of silly experiments to finally get things to “snap into place” and even longer to be selective about what I promoted and years to become profitable.
I worked very hard, but actually pretty dumb in some respects. How is that for legendary? However, I never stopped talking to people and as most know- I often will not shut-up, which means I need to get better at listening to people.
Here is where Todd Crawford excels and why he is a Legend first class.
Like so many neophytes in 1998 I had a question and a suggestion I left on a message board and Todd listened and replied. I e-mailed this elusive Vice President and he e-mailed me back. Not once, but several times. Other networks had ignored me, failed to acknowledge my suggestions, but Mr. Crawford jumped right into the conversation with me. If you think in terms of 1998- that is kind of legendary in those heady days.
In terms of the volume I had absolutely nothing to offer a network, and it wasn’t until years later that I did- penning articles for CJ on EPC Calibration, even speaking at CJU three times I think, plus I made my share of commissions, ran programs, etc. Yet long before that Todd continued to invest time with me, listen to my suggestions, introduce me to people, and solicit my feedback. Granted you can’t do that with everyone all the time, as I have learned, but it doesn’t hurt to talk to people when you can- and certainly to at least listen. It is the key to understanding people, problems and often yourself.
The Lessons I Learned From Todd- Applied
In the Summit 2.0 panel (the confusing one for some) I discussed meeting Steve Rosenbaum of Emmy Award fame, perhaps best known for creating the series MTV News UNfiltered, an early example of viewer-generated content in broadcast format. Full story here if you are curious, but it is long- so you are warned. There was a specific reason for this, but in our limited time I didn’t get a chance to loop back to the power of blogging and connectors.
During the panel at Affiliate Summit I started talking about SecondLifeVideo.com where I ended up testing Steve’s platform, using widgets and how I made some very startling discoveries on my own. SLV wiping out YouTube 10 to 1, fans taking up widgets, atypical community formation, the value of Meta Data in the future, etc. (I just forgot to explain what a widget was at first- thank you Sam of CostPerNews, the card carrying widget pusher, for reminding me.)
Back to the story. It turned out Steve and had something in common because I was blogging on censorship in India and Google algorithms on my personal blog and he was talking about censorship with Google Adwords at Indiewire.com- plus we had a common connection who put us together. The important thing here, and what I wanted to put to the audience about social media is that it is a powerful medium where you can meet surprising people- but you have to participate. I will never attain “legendary status” like Steve R., who literally changed the way I viewed news as a youngster, but I was amazed I was able to talk him into putting up the videos he had taken down. The strange collisions that can happen when we talk, listen and connect.
This would never have happened if:
- I had not been a part of a conversation I started on my own.
- He had not been part of conversation he started on his own.
- We shared common goals and interests.
- Someone read both of our conversations, saw the synergy, and introduced us (one Brian Clark- another story.)
- We both took the time out to talk and listen to each other and took action.
I know count Steve as a colleauge and collaborator and we realized we both have things we can teach each other and we do- totally different skill sets! This is why I feel it is important to have conversations and not to judge by title, or status, or a pecking order or caste system.
Some of the greatest insights can come from ordinary people, upstarts, and beginners. For merchants your greatest insights should come from your customers- often your affiliates who know your customers as well if not better than you. Show me a rolodex of “power players” and I will show you a rolodex of small ones- thinkers, hermits, people who imagine, who see things in a new way, like to innovate, know a niche, do it out of passion instead of just money, or simply experiment and share.
Maturation- We grow old.
To rank high in the search engines you have to have to build your site and at the least get the architecture right, wait, listen and adjust, otherwise you won’t be found. This is the same for the social web. You must participate in conversations, listen to what you hear, adjust and contribute. It is not who you know- it is who knows you. Lurking has some returns, but participating will get you far more.
Over the years as the industry matured. My relationship with Todd matured too. From the COC Summit at the Yale Club (Yes Todd I remember your sign.), to the closed door discussions I cannot speak of, these were truly rocky times for an industry- yet Todd stayed the course. I can vouch for that. Most do not see the blazing and often brutal politics behind the scenes, and if they did their views might change.
The problems have certainly not all been solved and every year we get new ones- kind of like Sea Monkeys- just add water and you get more. Yet Mr. Crawford is there year after year- talking to people, doing what he loves, what he is passionate about and willing to communicate to all kinds of people, every size affiliate, and merchant.
Most importantly he LISTENS to people and takes it back for synthesis- often turns it into action.
That might be the takeaway from this award winner- a legend listens and participates as much as possible- not just for their own gain, but for the good of all. Not just with big names, but with obscure ones too.
Congratulations Mr. Crawford. Thanks for talking over the years and thanks for listening.
Now when can we have a phone call about all the suggestions I have for your latest foray with Digital River and that entry on wine blogging?