Gordon Hoffstein

PW: First off, can you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?

GH: I joined Be Free, Inc. last fall as president and CEO. Prior to Be Free, I have a track record of leading a number of direct marketing ventures. In 1991, I co-founded PCs Compleat, Inc., the nation's first super direct reseller of personal-computer products and services. I negotiated the sale of the company to CompUSA, Inc. in 1996. Prior to founding PCs Compleat, Inc., I was the founder of MicroAmerica Inc., one of the country's first value-added microcomputer distributors.

PW: What is Be Free, and what does it do for merchants and website owners?

GH: Be Free, Inc. is the Web's leading technical and knowledge resource for building and maintaining branded affiliate sales channels and has the largest and fastest growing affiliate community on the Internet. More than 500,000 merchant-branded affiliates and over 40 Blue Chip Internet merchants are leveraging Be Free's technology and comprehensive end-to-end affiliate channel solution for their online retailing success. Be Free is unique because it is the only provider in the industry that serves as a one-stop source for complete, branded affiliate sales channel solutions. As part of its full-service approach to its clients, Be Free helps merchants find and screen suitable affiliate sites. It tracks sales transactions, manages daily operations, generates tags, monitors links, runs reports, calculates commissions and even cuts commission checks. Be Free automates this entire complex process for maximum efficiency, accuracy, and profitability.

PW: In what ways do you feel Affiliate Programs are better than CPM or CPC based advertising?

GH: First, affiliate programs are pay-for-performance based. That is, merchants never have to pay anything if affiliates don't generate sales. CPM or CPC based advertising is just the opposite. You pay for banners whether they generate sales or not. In addition, Be Free is the only affiliate solution provider that enables merchants to achieve several benefits, including: ownership of their sales channel; complete control over what their sales channel sells; and the ability to create healthy barriers for competitors. Be Free's merchant-branded affiliate sales channel solution differs from the network-centric model in that shared network models do not necessarily prevent others' access to your strategic asset.

PW: Do you see any drawbacks to Affiliate Program advertising, either for the merchant or the host?

GH: No, again it's based on pay for performance.

PW: I am asked the question, "how can I increase my response from Affiliate Programs" all the time. How would you answer a question like this?

GH: You can apply the same direct marketing techniques used in the brick and mortar world to your electronic commerce efforts. We work closely with our clients to improve the response of their affiliate sales channels through a process of continual improvement which includes: First, mining the Internet for affiliates, second, motivating affiliates to sell, next measuring the results of these efforts and then modifying their efforts to reflect the results. To effectively measure the success of the channel, merchants should create performance dashboards which include important metrics for key areas of performance. Understanding these metrics and how they compare with peer groups will provide the necessary data to continually improve the response of a merchant's affiliate sales channel.

PW: In closing, do you have any general tips for website owners?

GH: Make your site easy to navigate and fast.

PW: Thank you for your time, Mr. Hoffstein!

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