Today I was able to sit down with Brian Littleton of ShareASale and pick his brain a little bit. Brian and I discussed his role at ShareASale, some of the important issues the affiliate marketing industry is facing and even some fun personal facts. Grab a danish, put on your Spiderman booties and blast off to outer space!!!
J: What is your role/function here at ShareASale?
B: I founded the company back in 2000, and originally wrote and built all the core software that we utilize. Currently as the President/CEO of ShareASale my job is to provide long term vision and strategy, and lead our group into and through our various projects. Our goal remains the same from day 1 which is to provide the highest quality software and network to our customers, at a price reasonable and fair to businesses of all sizes.
J: What inspired you to create ShareASale?
B: I was working as a web developer (freelance) which put me in touch with a lot of great people with great ideas, and it was really fun to be a part of their projects. I grew into the idea that I would like to develop a software business of my own, and while researching a project it became apparent that there was a massive gap in the market for affiliate network software. Most companies and products targeted businesses with larger budgets – and from my experience I knew there were thousands of smaller businesses out there that could have a great deal of success in performance marketing but who didn’t have the budgets that the market demanded at the time. I felt like I could create a product that was of equal high quality, but provide it to businesses of all sizes as a viable alternative to what was on the market.
J: What is the most enjoyable and rewarding part of your job?
B: I love hearing from our customers about their businesses, and how we might be able to help them reach their goals. There are so many really smart and interesting people in the performance marketing space that I really enjoy just chatting with them about their ideas.
J: What do you believe is the most important issue facing the affiliate industry right now?
B: The most pressing issue is that of the States (California, Minnesota, New York, and more) who are trying to leverage “affiliates” as nexus thus forcing online retailers to collect sales tax on orders to those States. As we have all seen, the opposite has occurred as retailers have instead just dropped contracts with affiliates in the affected States.
Outside of that, I would argue that the entire industry needs to develop a common purpose and agenda. There are a number of hot-button issues in our industry, and they unfortunately have a way of dividing us while we could use some unity from time to time on issues such as the above mentioned tax situation, among many others. I hope we can all find a way to work together even in situations where we disagree. Because of the nature of the industry, we are all very independent and it can be hard to cede control or even admit to multiple sides of an issue – but I do feel it is important that we eventually work together to move the entire industry forward. Online marketing is a fast moving business – our competitors (as an industry) won’t wait for us.
J: Have you ever had a really unusual job before ShareASale?
B: Unusual? Not really…but I did work in a bakery where my job was to round up all the cheese danishes for prep the night before. I never knew they were about 1/20th their final size… literally bite size before they are cooked. I think I ate about 15% of the total danish count everyday. Luckily I was young and active and able to survive the 5000 calorie-a-day-danish-diet.
J: If you had never founded ShareASale, what would your dream job be? Firefighter? Astronaut?
B:Astronaut would be fun for sure, but I don’t know about all the g-force training I would probably pass out. I’d go with musician or professional snowboarder – neither of which do I have the required amount of talent for.
J: Where are you originally from?
B: Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan (Go Blue!) – I spent most of my youth in Michigan before moving to California and finally ending up here in the friendly confines of Chicago, Illinois.
J: Where did you go to school? What kind of degree do you have?
B: Went to Vanderbilt in Nashville, Tennessee as I was really impressed with their winter weather (coming from Michigan). I graduated with degrees in Economics and Computer Science – although at one time I was pursuing Secondary Education, Math, and I think one more major I can’t recall.
J: What is your favorite color?
B: ShareASale Yellow.
J: Have you ever gone to work in a Spiderman outfit?
B: I have delivered burritos to the wonderful ShareASale team in what could be described as a Spiderman suit. I’m not the only affiliate marketer with a Spiderman suit though, maybe you can figure out who the other one is.
J: Describe yourself in 3 words…
B: Trial and error.
Thanks for your time Brian!