Disclosure: If I'm not making money through affiliate links on the post you're currently reading, it's an oversight on my part and will be corrected soon.

Affiliate Summit is excited to offer a Mentor Program once again, whereby Affiliate Summit veterans team up with first-timers to help them get the most out of the conference.

We are lucky to have Jen Goode heading up the Affiliate Summit 2009 West Mentor Program. From the looks of things, she's done a fantastic job of recruiting Mentors and getting them all matched up with their Mentees.

In exchange for a breakfast, lunch or dinner (paid for by the Mentee), their assigned mentor is responsible for helping them optimize their time at the Conference.

I'd like to personally thank the Mentors below for helping make this program flourish. Way to pay it forward!

Mentors Matched Up With Two Mentees:

**Michael Buechele, 1115 Media
**Jeannine Crooks, Trippingtheglobe.com
**Pat Grady, RhinoFish Media
**Tricia Meyer, HelpingMomsConnect.com
**Kim Rowley, kimarketing.com
**Carolyn Tang, ShareASale
**Wade Tonkin,GTO Management
**Brad Waller, epage.com
**Vince Virzi, Restaurant.com

Additional Mentors Participating

Michael Abolafia,Taylor Gifts
Missy Barnstein, Platform-A
Ron Bechdolt, 7daysaweekmarketing.com
Enock Belony, LeadFlash.com
Jay Berkowitz, TenGoldenRules.com
Jamie Birch, jebcommerce.com
Scott Campbell, egazing.com
Kit Cassingham, Sage Blossom
Michael Coley, amazing-bargains.com
Todd Crawford, Todd Talks
Carsten Cumbrowski, Cumbrowski.com
Brent Elias, CSNstores.com
Auggie Falzarano, auggie4000.com
Todd Farmer, ToddFarmer.com
Trisha Lyn Fawver, NewEdgeMedia.com
Annie Figueredo, SouthBeachAnnie.com
Karen Garcia, GTO Management
Chuck Hamrick, AffiliateCrew
Sam Harrelson, PartnerCentric
Brandon Hoffman, AdHustler.com
Erik Hom, TicketMaster.com
Rachel Honoway, AffiliateClassroom.com
Scott Jangro, Jangro.com
Gary Kibel, DGLaw.com
Beth Kirsch, UAmplify
Mark Knighton, LavaSoft.com
Jim Kukral, JimKukral.com
Gail Leino, Party-Games-Etc.com
Kendyl Leverton, FatWallet.com
Jon Levine, CapitolSupply.com
Steve Nassau
Charles Ngo twitter.com/dr_ngo
Jeremy Palmer, TheBlackInkProject.com
Amber Paul, bloosky.com
Patrick Pete, ucan-behealthy.com
Lisa Picarille, Revenue Today
Durk Price, eAccountable.com
Ken Price, ShopWatchBuy.com
Ross Quade, insuranceagents.com
Adam Riemer, asseenontvnetwork.com
Lisa Riolo, LisaRiolo.com
Andy Rodriguez, andyrodriguez.com
Steve Root, Cafe Press
Melissa Salas, buy.com
Kim Salvino, Buy.at
Cherry Smith, af.deafs.com
Gilad Somjen, referforex.com
Dominic Yiadom, Buy.at

The 3rd annual Affiliate Summit Pinnacle Awards will be presented at the upcoming Affiliate Summit in Las Vegas.

The Affiliate Summit Pinnacle Awards Gala is affiliate marketing’s most prestigious, competitive honor for the leaders in the space. Award winners are recognized because they are innovative leaders with vision and influence.

The Pinnacle Awards Gala is open to all attendees of Affiliate Summit West 2009 and takes place Monday, January 12th from 5:00pm-6:30pm in the Brasilia room at the Rio Hotel Las Vegas.

Below are the Pinnacle Awards Finalists:

Affiliate of the Year
Scott Aikin
Mike Allen
Kim Rowley

Affiliate Manager of the Year
Angel Djambazov
Stephanie Harris
Kim Salvino

Exceptional Merchant

Affiliate Marketing Advocate
Michael Coley
Brook Schaaf
Melanie Seery

Best Blogger
Jamie Birch
Angel Djambazov
Scott Jangro

Affiliate Marketing Legend
Connie Berg
Scott Jangro
Kellie Stevens

Congratulations to all of the nominees and finalists.

Interview by Missy Ward

If you’ve been in the affiliate marketing industry for some time, chances are that you’ve heard of Melissa Salas, bumped into her at an industry event or at least have seen her smiling face online.

Salas is the Director of Marketing at Buy.com in Aliso Viejo, California and the co-host of BuyTV, the popular show for tech-savvy shoppers. She is also the 2008 Affiliate Summit Pinnacle Award Winner for Affiliate Manager of the Year, and spoke on a panel during Affiliate Summit Social Media 2008 in New York.

I recently talked with the industrious Salas about her career and her views on life and affiliate marketing.

Missy: So tell me a little bit about young Melissa. What was your life like growing up?

Melissa: When I look back at my childhood, I have nothing but fond memories. I grew up in a very loving, Christian home, where I was the oldest of three children. My mom didn’t believe in daycare, so she worked days and my dad worked nights, which meant that someone was always home with us. After 34 years, my parents are still married and love each other dearly.

My mother got me involved in everything when I was a kid. I was a Brownie and Girl Scout and wore my mother’s handmade dresses until I was in 5th grade – where I discovered fast-pitch softball… my entrée to sports. Life went from Bobby Sox and Track & Field in the spring to Football in the fall. From there I got involved in drama class, homecoming court, JV and Varsity Cheer as well as Varsity Track & Field.

After graduating high school, I moved to Hunting Beach, California where I attended Long Beach State University.

Missy: So now you’re living in Aliso Viejo, right down the road from Buy.com. How’s that working out?

Melissa: It’s great. I’m just ten minutes from Laguna Beach. I’m a beach girl and need to be close to God’s most magnificent creation. The beach is such a peaceful place to collect my thoughts and give thanks. Plus, being so close to work allows me to go home and play with my Maltese, Bentley.

Missy: So how does a sports-enthusiast, beach-going gal like yourself, get involved with the Internet?

Melissa: Funny story, really. My first job was as a bank teller at Wells Fargo and was eventually promoted to Branch Manager. At that point, online banking was just starting and I had to learn about it to train my staff. We all believed at the time that customers would never adopt online banking as it was even a problem getting them to use an ATM machine!

Missy: How did you make the leap from banking to Buy.com?

Melissa: After 8 years with Wells Fargo, I moved to Also Viejo. My neighbor at the time worked for Buy.com. For over a year, he tried to recruit me. But I was like, “What? People buying stuff online??? “ No way will people share their credit card information over the internet. In 2000, I decided to join the staff and now 8 years later, the Internet is my everything.

Missy: When did affiliate marketing hit your radar and how did you figure it all out?

Melissa: I was in Business Development at Buy.com for two years, when an opening came up in Affiliate Marketing. I began managing both. I love building relationships, so getting to know our affiliates was easy. I sure learned a lot from them and my boss was a great mentor. I also read a lot of trade articles and magazines. At the time, our network was LinkShare and I owe a lot of my knowledge to Stephen and Heidi Messer, as well as Kelly Beougher.

Missy: What is the secret to Buy.com’s success?

Melissa: Scott Blum’s vision, Neel Grover’s execution and the Buy.com team who carries a lot of tenure because we all believe in our company. Success starts with vision, and it’s our job to make sure we offer online shoppers the absolute best shopping experience. We are a company who has evolved to the online customers needs. Our goal is to be the one destination for all their shopping needs. Great prices, free shipping offers and superior customer service. In the future, I believe Buy.com will grow its product offering, globally.

Missy: How do you think Social Media has helped grow Buy.com?

Melissa: With the development of our FaceBook application Garage Sale – Buy.com has had success in the social media space. We even took our own stab into social media with our site Yub.com (its Buy backwards). I am heavily involved in all social media sites such as posting our Buy.com deals on Twitter (Twitter.com/buy_com), as well as addressing any customer service related questions. BuyTV has a MySpace page (MySpace.com/buytv), where we can interact with our fans.

Missy: How would you characterize the current state of affiliate marketing?

Melissa: Affiliate marketers are not only entrepreneurs / small business owners but more and more they are an important extension of the advertiser’s marketing team.

Missy: In your opinion, what are some of the biggest hurdles facing affiliate marketers right now?

Melissa: 1) Ethics. 2) Differentiating themselves from other affiliate marketers. 3) Keeping up with multiple offers from multiple merchants and learning to scale campaigns. 4) Getting traffic to their site with ever-changing index algorithms and higher bid prices if using PPC. 5) For new affiliates, learning to incorporate technologies like conversion tracking, click trackers, installing analytics, analyzing analytics for better optimization of their business.

Missy: What are 3 trends affiliate marketers should have on their radar in the next few months?

Melissa: Definitely, new mobile phones that can do everything! Smartphones, TV on your PC and Ultra Portable Laptops.

Missy: What is the biggest piece of advice you would give an affiliate just starting out?

Melissa: Build strong relationships with the top merchants you plan to work with they are the source of your content. Build out your site with a lot of content. Brand yourself as an expert in whatever interests you.

Missy: What are some of your other passions other than affiliate marketing?

Melissa: I really enjoy hosting our TV show BuyTV. Aside from work, I have a passion for kickboxing, live music, traveling, snowblading, going to USC football games and well, any sports event really. I also love eating A LOT of chocolate.

Missy: Work aside, what do you want to do in the future?

Melissa: I want what every girl dreams of… travel the world, get married and have a family. All in God’s time.

Download the entire FeedFront issue 3 here – http://feedfront.com/feedfront-issue3.pdf

FeedFront issue 3 articles can be found here as well: http://feedfront.com/archives/category/issue-3/