In an office in agency filled Mohandessin, Araby Ads prepare to expand as they move into their new and larger office. As the people behind the growth of Affiliate Marketing in Egypt, Araby Ads is also preparing for its first paid Arab Affiliate Summit, where freelancers and companies come together to discuss the market’s growth and trends.
Sitting down with CEO and co-founder of Araby Ads and the Arab Affiliate Summit, Think Marketing learns more about Mahmoud Fathy and this new emerging market.
All right, let’s start slowly. From Physics to a niche marketing industry, and by 26 already a founder of a large company (Araby Ads), how was the transition from a Physics major to marketing then entrepreneurship?
At first, it was all about trying to build my career. With universities in Egypt, I felt unsure about my future, so I tried to make money. I tried to build my own business.
When I thought about my studies in physics, I realized it wasn’t the perfect or greatest match for me, so I decided to make money online.
When searching through the internet, under how to make money online in Arabic, you will find a lot of scams, a lot of spam. I kept searching until I found some articles on Affiliate Marketing, which I studied for 2 years.
I first worked at Bayt.com, where I soon became their top performer, and I was paid around 200k USD in the first year. I also worked at the region’s first performance marketing agency called IKOO.com, it was also the regions first affiliate network. I also became their top performer by the end of the year.
Soon, I felt like it was time, so I started building my team, some of them are still with me, and started to work as a small media buying team, working with clients such as IKOO and Bayt. And from there, we built.
Now we [Araby Ads] have over 70 employees, and I believe we are the leading affiliate network in the Middle East.
So, your company, Araby Ads, is aimed towards Affiliate marketing. Could you quickly elaborate on what is Affiliate Marketing?
Affiliate Marketing is a type of Performance Marketing.
The main goal of an Affiliate is to make money online, so how do they do it? They can approach companies, such as Amazon, and tell them they would like to work for them. They will most likely be told that they can work as a freelancer. If they are able to promote their products or send them users that are willing to buy something, they will pay the freelancer [affiliate] around 10% of the Sale.
This process is called Affiliate Marketing.
So, the advertiser, Amazon, will pay for any conversions received from the freelancer’s website.
If you are an influencer, and have a following on Facebook or etc, your audience is listening to you. So why not make a video talking about Amazon’s new iPhone?
Let’s say, I am an influencer, and I want to make money from my audience. So I can make a video talking about the new iPhone and its features, that it can be found on Amazon, and here is a special link to a discount from me.
Your audience trusts you, so they will click on the link and buy the iPhone. Now I have helped Amazon make a sale, so Amazon will now pay me for every conversion around 10%. This is one example of how affiliates can make money.
So how does it work?
Can you write a blog post, can you make a video, can you convince your audience to buy something from this special link?
The main things to think about are does your audience trust you? Will they interact with your content?
It is all about targeting your audience correctly, and having them trust you and your content.
Tell us then, what made you venture into Affiliate marketing? It’s a tight market that most don’t think of in the MENA region.
As a start, it was purely about making money, to be honest.
But after a while, what was my goal? I already made a lot of money as a freelancer, and I can work at any time as long as I have internet and a computer. So, I thought to myself, why not enjoy what I am doing?
It became not about being an affiliate, but building a business. As a young businessman, I wanted to introduce the concept [of affiliate marketing] to the market here. I wanted to build a business from a local Egyptian one to an international one.
I wanted to become the one place where people know, if you are looking for Affiliate Marketing in the MENA region, there is one destination, Araby Ads. If you want to make [or attend] an event, there is only the Arab Affiliate Summit.
So, tell us about the Arab Affiliate Summit, which was created by your company 4 years ago. What made you decide that we needed a place to meet, learn, connect and start talking about Affiliate marketing?
We have a lot of opportunity with Affiliate marketing here in the Middle East. There was no competition, no market, we created the market. So, we said to ourselves, how about we invest in the market? To educate the market.
Most freelancers don’t know a lot about Affiliate Marketing, so we want to educate them. When it comes to advertisers, when it comes to affiliates, and connect all of them in one place.
It was, honestly, also about leaving a legacy. That was our hope.
We already had money, I personally was already rich from being a freelancer, and so was my partner. So, we thought, what about giving back to our industry?
And how did that go?
Our first summit was actually free. The first year was the hardest for us, we tried to introduce a new concept to the market. We heard a lot of “no, this isn’t right. No, you have a hidden agenda!” I mean, guys, come on! It was a free event, we didn’t need anything, just attend.
Well, we Egyptians don’t accept free.
Let’s talk Affiliate marketing in the region. Worldwide, this particular marketing industry makes over $7 Billion dollars a year, just how much of that is made in Egypt and the MENA region?
Egypt made around 100 million USD last year, and the MENA region market is around 300 million. The growth rate in Egypt is around 100%.
This year, my company alone, will make around 200 million USD, so the overall market would be around 300 million. We are also trying to expand in Algeria, Sudan, and other countries.
How has the industry affected the economy? Has it helped the local economy through ways such as self-employment, increase in GDP, etc?
I enjoy helping both sides, I am trying to help the freelancers just like me and you, or anyone in this country who wants to make money online with a trusted company. We are trying to get them jobs to help with unemployment.
They contribute to the economy by putting their money in the bank at the end of the day.
What are the current ways for affiliates to serve ads, sponsorship or product placement? Are there any new trends that we should look out for?
Influencers because they trust them now, they follow them and their recommendations, and online ads such as Instagram and Facebook ads.
Unfortunately, influencers don’t have as much effect here as they do in the Gulf countries, because Egyptians lose trust in influencers when they start doing ads.
What other type of content do you believe will explode in the near future?
A kind of blogging called comparison websites.
Should Affiliate marketing be something both small and large companies focus on? Does it make a difference for both sides, or only for certain players?
In the end, both types of companies can benefit from [Affiliate Marketing], because in the end of the day, they want revenue.
For me, big companies are easier to work with because people already trust them, know them and their products well, but they prefer the traditional way of marketing.
But I prefer to work with small companies, because I believe it is more challenging, and I really like to grow with my clients.
Who are these affiliates? Who are they, why do they enjoy or prefer this type of work, and are they actually making enough?
All of the are like you and me. Most of them are jobless, they are looking to make a family, but they all face the same issue? They finish college and they ask themselves “what do I do now?”
They want to make something of themselves, they believe in the internet and that it can make great things. Most of them hate their full-time jobs, they love to be free.
Statistically, around of 80% of the affiliates are male. I do think that this model would be perfect for the females in this country, since both genders are already looking for jobs, but females in our region have a lot of issues, aside from cultural issues.
I believe that working from home is the best option for them, to live the lifestyle they are looking for without issues from men and cultural norms in closed countries.
Lastly, how would you advise those who are interested in joining the industry as an affiliate?
To be committed, and don’t think it is an easy job. You have to build a good and diverse profile, learn marketing and use your money effectively when it comes to online ads.