It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year since the release of Performance Partnerships, an industry-leading book written by Acceleration Partners’ founder and CEO, Robert Glazer.
Since launching a year ago today, over 10,000 copies of Performance Partnerships: The Checkered Past, Changing Present and Exciting Future of Affiliate Marketing have been distributed globally. It’s also become a global bestseller in marketing and a recommend read by Entrepreneur, Forbes and Huffington Post, among many others.
Performance Partnerships is the first book to take a deep-dive into the affiliate marketing industry and tell the story of its past, present and future. Not only does Performance Partnerships air some of the industry’s dirty laundry, it’s the only book in existence that provides insight into how the industry can learn from those mistakes and come together to make Performance Partnerships® the go-to model to grow and scale performance marketing over the next five to ten years.
In honor of Performance Partnerships one-year launch, I chased down Robert Glazer during his crazy conference travel schedule and asked him a few questions about the book.
What inspired/motivated you to take on the challenge of writing this book?
I always felt that the industry was misunderstood and that people really weren’t seeing the tremendous advantages of performance-based marketing. A lot of this this was because the term “affiliate marketing” had some negative connotations.
Also, many companies had poor experiences in their first go-round with affiliate marketing. However, that had more to do with the people/agency they chose to run their programs, their misaligned incentives and neglectful fiduciary relationships than with the model itself.
One of the most consistent messages I receive from clients, partners and industry veterans alike is that they want more focus on actual performance. Not perceived performance – but trackable, attributable performance.
They want to get back to the original promise offered by performance marketing two decades ago, which is that they only pay for marketing when an agreed-upon outcome has been realized. And they want that done with high-value, reputable partners who engage in transparent behavior and be able to manage the relationship within a framework that’s scalable and efficient.
That may sound like a big ask, but that’s exactly what the Performance Partnerships® framework does. It includes everything that people want in their affiliate relationships and excludes everything undesirable, opaque, unscrupulous, disreputable and overly time-consuming.
I also felt some frustration about not really being able to clearly explain how our agency’s approach to affiliate program management is drastically different from the “affiliate marketing” that many have come to know. I saw the book as a chance to elevate the industry in the eyes of marketing leaders.
What has surprised you the most since the book launched?
A few things
The international appeal. Copies have been sold in over 15 countries and we’re seeing a lot of interest in Asia and India
Another is that many of the anticipated changes to the industry that I talked about in the Gen 3 section are happening even faster than expected, including the growth of SaaS programs, global program expansion and industry consolidation. On the service side in particular, people are realizing the importance of scale and having a robust affiliate practice. With all that in mind, I think we are about to see a big wave of mergers and acquisitions.
I’ve also been surprised by how the book has been embraced as a training resource. I have heard from networks, publishers and even other agencies that that they are using the book as part of their new hire training.
If you were writing Performance Partnerships today, what would you have included that you didn’t?
Three things in particular:
The rise of new types of subscription services – providers of everything from cars and clothes to food and bikes who are embracing the model.
Case studies around global programs. Today, there are more case studies around the types of global programs that I suggested would evolve, so I’d have included those.
I would also have looked at how blockchain might change the industry in the next 5-10 years.
Three reasons someone should read Performance Partnerships
For those who had that negative first experience, it candidly addresses how the affiliate industry got some of its bad rap and how to avoid the same mistakes.
It explains how companies in every vertical or industry can realize better value, returns and transparency from their marketing partnerships, and do so at scale.
It’s a guide for how to develop and successfully run a next gen affiliate marketing program. Although it explains where this marketing model is today and how the world’s leading companies are leveraging it in their marketing, it also looks at what’s ahead for marketing and partnerships. I think readers will be surprised by how many of the predictions I made in 2017 have come / are coming true.
April was a big month for our Outperform podcast! We had the honor of featuring some impressive guests, including best-selling author, Daniel Pink, Marilyn Valace of Impact and Acceleration Partners’ (AP) own Alison Chew and Cassandra Scarbeck.
We chatted with them about topics ranging from how financial services companies are leveraging affiliate marketing and the unique challenges they face to spotlighting innovative publisher partners and even the roles motivation and timing play in our performance.
Here are some highlights from each episode:
EPISODE 29: WHAT TO KNOW BEFORE TRYING TO PARTNER WITH A FINANCIAL SERVICES COMPANY
Marilyn Valace, Regional Director at Impact (formerly Impact Radius) joins us on Outperform to share how financial services companies are embracing the affiliate marketing model to market their products and services.
If you have any interest in partnering with a financial services company, this Outperform podcast episode is a must-listen.
A Few Topics Discussed
What makes financial services companies a unique client for technology platforms and agencies to work with and what they look for in their affiliate partnerships
The intense regulatory requirements financial services companies face
Why financial companies must be especially careful and selective about the types of companies and publishers they choose to work with
EPISODE 30: Q1 PUBLISHER SPOTLIGHT: INCREASINGLY, MASS MEDIA PUBLISHERS & REVLIFTER
Members of AP’s innovative Publisher Development team, Alison Chew and Cassandra Scarbeck, spotlight a few publishers and affiliates that they think are adding value to advertisers’ affiliate programs and review how these companies are setting themselves apart in the crowded affiliate marketing landscape.
A Few Topics Discussed
Two exciting technology partners out of the UK and how they’re helping advertisers outperform and drive incremental revenue
A publisher that is helping retail advertisers increase their shoppers’ basket sizes on average of 12%
Some well-known Mass Media publishers with massive followings and how they’re partnering with brands to monetize their extensive long-tail content online
EPISODE 31: DANIEL PINK ON MOTIVATION, TIMING, NAPPING AND OUTPERFORMING
Our guest on this episode of Outperformis Daniel H. Pink, author of six thought-provoking books, including his most recent book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, which rapidly made the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Washington Post and Publishers Weekly bestseller lists.
In this episode we chat with Dan and discuss misperceptions around motivation, timing, outperforming and how the nappuccino can transform your naps.
A Few Topics Discussed
What most business leaders don’t understand about motivation
The first-mover advantage concept and why it’s not usually accurate
The three stages we move through during the day
The best time of day to do analytic work, administrative work and creative work
Why companies need to take chronology into account when scheduling meetings and tasks
Entering the affiliate marketing industry as a recent graduate can be overwhelming, especially if your college course catalog lacked ‘Affiliate Marketing 101’. Thankfully, there are plenty of resources you can seek out to make your transition from college to “the real world” a bit smoother.
When I first arrived at Acceleration Partners I was ecstatic, but I didn’t have any prior knowledge of affiliate marketing from college or my past work experience in public relations. However, I quickly realized that there were a variety of factors that would contribute to my success in the affiliate marketing industry. So, for those of you who have landed an affiliate marketing role right out of college, here are five books you should read to set yourself up for success:
Performance Partnershipsis a must-read if you are new to the affiliate marketing space. Glazer opens Performance Partnerships by breaking down the comprehensive history of affiliate marketing. Through this history, you will gain a broader understanding of the early years of the industry, how it developed and ultimately where it is headed today. You will also be introduced to all of the players involved in affiliate marketing, from advertisers to affiliates to networks.
As a newbie to the affiliate industry, Performance Partnerships will help you develop a better understanding of affiliate marketing and provide you with the context needed to build and nurture successful partnerships in your new role. Don’t hesitate to pick this one up!
Please Don’t Do That! is a 36-page grammar guide that outlines common grammar errors and how to fix them. Now, I understand this may not appear to be the most riveting content you’ll read today, but don’t be alarmed. Please Don’t Do That! can easily be read in one sitting and is a helpful resource to have on your desk when you’re writing.
As an affiliate marketing professional, you will be writing emails to your clients and partners on a daily basis. As your role develops, you may also be responsible for drafting newsletters to communicate updates or creating marketing copy that your partners can use to promote your client. Therefore, strong written communication skills are a must in the affiliate marketing industry. Consider Please Don’t Do That! your go-to guide for grammar checks – it will help your writing tremendously.
The Obstacle is the Way explains how to turn every obstacle in your life into an advantage through three proven steps: perception, action and will. When you’re new to the workforce, it can be challenging to navigate through common problems such as dealing with a difficult partner or being tasked with a demanding project.
This book will help you reframe your mindset so that you view hardships as an opportunity for growth rather than an inconvenience. The Obstacle is the Way also encourages you to break down your obstacles into actionable steps and build the willpower needed to endure through any curveball that comes your way.
The Defining Decade refutes the claim that “30 is the new 20” and encourages readers to start going after their goals today. While many can agree that your twenties are a time for self-exploration, it’s important to note that they are not a decade to be wasted. Your twenties are critical for building your career and setting yourself on the path to success. The Defining Decade will inspire you to invest in your growth and act now.
In your new affiliate marketing role, this can mean taking initiative and owning a new project, attending a trade show or networking event or even enrolling in an online class. Whatever you do, be sure to push yourself forward and make the most of your twenties while they last.
Lean In discusses how women can overcome the challenges they face at work by taking control of their own careers. While this book is mainly targeted towards women, its learnings can be applied to anyone entering the workforce. Lean In teaches you how to “sit at the table,” and take opportunities when they come your way, even if you don’t feel prepared for them.
As a new graduate, one of the best ways to grow within your industry is to take risks and challenge yourself. Lean In also stresses the importance of having a mentor to guide you in your career. When you’re new to your company, finding someone you trust, who knows your value and is willing to advocate for you and give you advice is invaluable.
Regardless of industry, entering the workforce as a recent graduate can be daunting.
While my current position at Acceleration Partners wasn’t my first gig out of college, reading these five books helped me to prepare for an early career change from public relations to affiliate marketing. I hope this advice helps you as well as you set yourself up for immediate and future success in your new role.
I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when I started as a new associate at Acceleration Partners (AP) in 2017. I had come from a traditional/digital marketing background and had no prior experience with affiliates. But, affiliate marketing was a hot topic in the industry, and I was curious.
What was the difference between affiliate marketing and influencer marketing? How could affiliate marketing possibly be as beneficial as social media and pay-per-click programs? Basically, what was I getting into?
Fortunately, the team was right! I can honestly say the training I received was amazing. For three weeks, I attended comprehensive sessions covering everything from the most basic outlines of affiliate marketing to the most complex concepts and applications I would need in my new role.
I was also given access to an incredible amount of data—in the form of an affiliate dictionary/guidebook that AP has developed over many years. To make the transition even smoother, I was surrounded by a team of seasoned affiliate superstars, who were available for even the smallest of questions. Frankly, I felt sublimely spoiled through the entire process. In the end, I also felt completely prepared to tackle my new role.
Are you an affiliate newbie thinking of joining this new world? I’m sure you’re wondering what to expect, how this kind of marketing differs from what you’re used to, and if you’re cut out for this line of work. Don’t worry, I’ve been there, and I’ve got your back!
Here is a snapshot of what you will learn as an affiliate newbie at Acceleration Partners:
You and Your Client Are (Really) on the Same Team
As we all know, client relationships vary greatly depending on your role. In my experience, the relationship between the agency and the client is often disconnected, with tasks and responsibilities handed off piecemeal. The marketer is often left with just the job of communicating ideas and/or results.
At Acceleration Partners, things are very different. You are truly an extension of your client’s marketing team, and there’s a real sense of partnership between everyone. Communication is completely open, and it’s not uncommon to speak with your client multiple times a day. This keeps projects moving forward with real transparency about the state of various deliverables. This kind of communication also builds accountability and trust—the foundation of relationships that can help you achieve all your common goals.
The Content Thickens
Content is always a hot topic in marketing, because strong and unusual content drives buyers. This is as true in affiliate marketing as in other areas, but we have a lot more to keep track of.
Affiliate marketers at Acceleration Partners have direct access to a seemingly unlimited number of mass media partners, niche publishers, bloggers, and more. Each of us is tasked with recruiting publishers in a wide range of categories to support our clients’ programs. It is our job to educate clients about their options while remaining focused on their overall objectives and delivering top results.
The goal is always to steer clients to the best opportunities in our directory. The tricky part is that affiliate marketers also have to liaison between publishers and the client. This takes a tremendous amount of focus and a keen sense of the client’s needs. But fortunately, you’ll have that—thanks to Number 1.
Data Is King
Get ready to roll up your sleeves and dig into data like never before. I had plenty of reporting experience before I joined Acceleration Partners, but the level of support and insight we provide to our clients is absolutely unreal.
I deliver some sort of comprehensive report every day—a breakdown of performance for the overall program, specific placements, activation campaigns, etc.—and I absolutely love it! Coming into AP, I was admittedly an Excel newbie who shuddered at the thought of creating a pivot table. Now, I feel completely confident and can effectively analyze and deliver results in new and exciting ways.
Say Hello to the World of Affiliate Networks
Shareasale, Impact Radius, Awin…. If you had asked me a year ago what these were, I would have had no clue. Now I use these invaluable networks every day to help run affiliate programs. Everything from recruiting and approving publishers to tracking transactions, reporting and communications—and so much more—is handled using one or a combination of several affiliate networks. At first glance, these networks can be extremely intimidating (especially for those of us coming from a different area of marketing). But, they will become your lifelines.
Hopefully, this outline will help ease your transition and clear up questions about what to expect in your role as an affiliate marketer at Acceleration Partners. I assure you that as intimidating as it can be to pivot industries, change can be refreshing and exhilarating. This is particularly true when you join a team that truly values the insights and perspective you can contribute—which is what I have found at AP.
Just be prepared: I think you are likely to grow professionally more quickly than you ever thought possible.
Massdrop has joined the Acceleration Partners family of brands and we are so excited to share with you their affiliate program!
Massdrop is a community-driven commerce platform that appeals to enthusiasts across the multiple community categories that range from watches to technology to audiophile. They make products with input from their members, allowing them a place to connect, learn, and shop with people who share their interests. They have partnered with Acceleration Partners and Impact Radius to offer a great way to sign up for their partner program so that affiliates can begin earning commission as quickly as possible.
Acceleration Partners is encouraging qualified affiliates to join Massdrop’s affiliate program. Massdrop offers product datafeeds with hundreds of products updated daily, bimonthly newsletters with product drops, contests and sales opportunities, new creative and text links, and a dedicated account management team. Affiliates can earn 5%-10% commission once joined to the Massdrop program with a 30-day cookie window.
Most request for proposals (RFPs) for affiliate program management include a laundry list of questions. Everything from “what’s your team structure” to “what processes and procedures do you have in place for compliance monitoring.”
It’s not that these questions aren’t important. The issue is that, if the questions aren’t pointed or substantial enough, it’s too easy for vendors to hide serious deficiencies or risks behind a general, well-written response.
The goal of an RFP is for advertisers to not only get a clear sense of the services being offered, but also the quality of those services. After responding to numerous RFPs, we’ve found there are really only a few questions which are effective at helping companies get to the substance behind the words and marketing.
The questions below—and the corresponding answers to them – will help you separate the wheat from the chaff and ensure that you’re selecting an Affiliate Agency partner who will truly deliver for you.
Question #1 – What percent of this project/engagement will make up your total revenue?
The answer to this question can help you quickly determine how big the agency is and, in turn, how risky it may be for them to take on your business. In professional services, if a client is making up greater than 15-20% or more of an agency’s revenue, there can be significant enterprise risk for the client.
An agency that takes on an account that is a large percentage of their revenue may be forced to scale quickly. This rapid build-up can put a strain on cash flow and quality as there is pressure to onboard people fast. In addition, this may also indicate that they have other clients who make up a significant portion of their revenue. If/when one of those clients leave, it can quickly cause financial strain and instability within the agency and often results in layoffs.
Question #2 – How financially healthy is the agency?
While percentage of revenue is one important financial metric, the overall health of the company is equally important and very often overlooked. Here are a few questions that can help dig into an agency’s financial health.
Has the company been profitable or had positive cash flow each of the past four quarters? If the vendor has struggled to be profitable, they could be looking at your business to help them get out of trouble. If the agency doesn’t want to share financials, their accounting firm can certify this for you.
Does the company have a line of credit in place? This ensures the company has access to sufficient working capital and has a good banking relationship. Companies generally cannot get equity lines without proper reporting or profitability so this demonstrates strong financial practices.
Does this company have a clear process to separate client’s advertising dollars from operating capital? There have been many nightmare stories in the past few years of agencies mingling client funds and agency fees and using client money to fund their business. Advances paid for advertising spend should never be allowed to fund the company’s working capital needs.
Question #3 – How many full-time affiliate management staff do you have and how many programs are you currently managing?
This question – like the one above – speaks to whether an agency currently has enough experienced professionals on staff to properly manage your program.If they don’t, they’ll likely be scrambling to hire affiliate account managers, and good ones are extremely difficult to find.
Or, they might be just stretch their current team even further. The answer to this question can also provide you with a sense of the resources they dedicate to accounts. If they manage 12 other programs but only have three full-time affiliate managers, you may not be comfortable (and shouldn’t be!) with a single resource managing four other accounts.
Question #4 – What is the average length of client engagements or retention rate?
Do their clients work with them, on average, for three months? A year? Five years? With this question, you’re looking to see whether the agency has a track record of establishing, maintaining and nurturing long-term partnerships.
There are many agencies who have brought on a large number of clients but only work with them for a year or less. Anyone can sell something once, but do clients come back?
Question #5 – Are all your affiliate program account managers full-time employees of your company, with employment taxes and benefits?
If you’re paying a US company to manage your US-based affiliate program, then you want to ensure that the team members who are overseeing your account are not part-time or full-time independent contractors (a practice that is illegal, but common). You also want to make sure they are not being outsourced from another country
If either of these is present, perhaps affiliate management is not a core competency of the agency, or at least not one they’re willing to bring in-house for long-term development. What’s more is that employees without access to benefits or health care are likely to be looking for a company who can make a bigger commitment to them, which affects turnover.
Question #6 – What’s the average affiliate experience (in years) of your senior affiliate account management team?
Strategically and effectively managing an affiliate program is quite nuanced and complex. It’s also not (currently) a marketing skill-set that’s taught in higher-education. Since most affiliate account managers and directors learn the ins and outs of affiliate marketing program management through either trial and error or on-the-job training, they may not have the high-level expertise or experience required to meet the needs of your program.
Acceleration Partners is the only agency that has a formalized in-house training program to teach digital marketing professionals how to be an effective, strategic and efficient account manager before they take on managing an account. This helps ensure that a “trial and error” approach to program management is not taking place within your program.
BONUS RFP QUESTIONS International
Does your company have legal entities or proper registrations in each country of service and operation? This is an easy one for many agencies to bluff or stretch the truth on. You want to ensure that they are set up as a business in the country you’re looking to operate in and are using employees and not contractors.
You have an office in X country, but do you have active affiliate managers there?Some large agencies will show an impressive global office footprint, however there aren’t actually any active affiliate managers in that office. Their approach is to hire the team after the account is won – people who may not have industry experience or local relationships.
Are you able to manage multiple international networks as a single program? If so, please explain.
The international affiliate space is complex, with a multitude of different networks, technologies, partners and systems. Agencies must understand how to bring all these pieces together to create a single, comprehensive program and have the technology to integrate reporting from multiple networks.
Do you have language support systems in place and/or local language resources? If yes, please explain.
You’re looking for real support here to ensure that communications to your partners will be clearly understood. Google translate does not suffice and should not be used for your newsletter communications and updates to your partners.
Do you maintain your own CRM of publishers or do you rely on third-party networks? Publishers come in all shapes, sizes and specialties. In the affiliate space, most agencies haven’t invested in technology that enables them to house, manage, collaborate with and optimize all the information on their publisher partners in one place, something that can be extremely valuable to an affiliate program especially as more unique relationships are brought into the industry. Likewise, non-compliant or flagged affiliates need to be documented and known across an agency to ensure they’re not entering your program.
When you solicit proposals from agencies to manage your affiliate marketing program, you’re likely to get numerous responses back, which can be overwhelming. Many of these will paint a picture that is far more form over function.
To quickly whittle your list down, start with these six questions and then craft additional questions that address the attributes that you want and need in a program management partner.
Profile of a Growth Marketer is an ongoing series where we feature performance marketing industry leaders from around the globe.
Working in a role where you oversee a half-dozen brands with over 15 websites and B2C and B2B elements across dealer, retail, and e-commerce business units requires attention to detail and a team effort.
No one knows this better than Mike Wolf, Sr. Manager of Digital Marketing & E-Commerce at The Stow Company, an enterprise that manufactures a complete range of organization solutions for all areas of the home. Their products include closet organizers, garage storage systems, pantry organizers, wall beds, laundry storage, entertainment centers, mudroom storage and more.
We asked Mike about how he ventured into the world of digital marketing, his approach to implementing strategic initiatives for multiple brands and the role affiliate marketing plays in helping The Stow Company realize its goals.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR ROLE AT THE STOW COMPANY AND FOR EASYCLOSETS?
I’m responsible for the planning, execution and measurement of all digital marketing initiatives for The Stow Company and its house of brands. This means providing leadership and oversight to the digital customer journey, overseeing everything from acquisition campaigns, such as our affiliate programs, to marketing automation, CRM, and web personalization.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THE WORLD OF PERSONALIZED STORAGE SOLUTIONS?
Right place at the right time. During my Junior year at Calvin College, I was randomly assigned to a class project for The Stow Company in one of my marketing classes. The professor was an advocate of project-based learning which provided a fantastic opportunity for students like me to make connections in the local business community and get real-world experience while still in college. The class project ultimately led to another class project the following semester, a summer internship, and a full-time job upon graduation. I’m still here 13 years later and enjoying every minute.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL WEEKDAY LIKE?
Working in a multi-brand and multi-channel environment, there isn’t a typical weekday. Most days are spent in the weeds with my sleeves rolled up building and adjusting acquisition campaigns, launching or removing promotional tactics across our portfolio of sites, reporting for our business unit leaders, or working one-on-one through local campaigns with our dealer and retail partners.
WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST REWARDING ABOUT WORKING WITH THE STOW COMPANY AND COMPANIES LIKE EASYCLOSETS?
I am surrounded by a phenomenal group of colleagues who have a passion and drive for what they do. It’s rewarding to see hard work and dedication pay off in big ways, watching the company triple in size since I started in 2005. Our work not only helps our dealer and retail customers grow their own businesses but it also helps our end users tackle the clutter and disorganization that often leads to stress and anxiety at home. It’s incredibly rewarding knowing that the products we pour our hearts into each day ultimately help people master their space so they can spend more time on things that matter most in their lives.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES IN ONLINE MARKETING TODAY?
I think a huge challenge is misplaced focus. It’s easier than ever to fall victim to shiny object syndrome and spend our days suffering from the need to be everywhere – in every channel, using every tool and platform, and trying to reach everyone. Unfortunately, this approach is more about focusing on the numbers and the mechanics than creating actual value for customers.
I love how Mitch Joel put it. He said we should “think about making an impression over how many impressions you are getting.” The challenge is to stop focusing all our attention on the platforms, tools, and processes and start focusing on the end user, the quality of our message, and the level of trust that it inspires.
FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE, HOW HAS THE AFFILIATE MARKETING MODEL ADDED VALUE TO EASYCLOSETS?
I’m a huge fan of our affiliate program and its performance-based model. It adds value at each stage of our customer’s journey. Whether it be attracting new customers via content partners during someone’s discovery stage, exposing people to our brand through loyalty partners, or being accessible for customers who are hunting for that last-minute deal before checkout, affiliate marketing reaches people where they are while delivering value for both us and our affiliates.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF WORKING WITH ACCELERATION PARTNERS?
I consider Acceleration Partners a part of our in-house team. They provide us with the depth of experience and expertise in the affiliate space that we lack internally and constantly bring new partners, programs, and ideas to the table. Our account team has been fantastic in helping us vet new partners, bring new programs to fruition quickly, and keep our program running honestly and efficiently. Most of all, everyone we’ve had the pleasure of working with has been of high character, had a strong work ethic, and has treated our business like it was their own.
WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU MOST ABOUT THE AFFILIATE MARKETING MODEL?
I’ve been most surprised by the volume and quality of output from some of our larger affiliate partners. We have affiliates in our program who drive more volume than most of our other acquisition programs at an average order value that is 15-20% higher than our other channels. At a cost of less than 5% of the sale, it’s a no-brainer essential element of our marketing mix.
Profile of a Growth Marketer is an ongoing series where we feature performance marketing industry leaders from around the globe.
Acquiring new customers in the highly-competitive world of insurance is no easy feat. Even more challenging? When you’re a company with a business model that is completely disrupting the industry.
Metromile, the first and only company to specialize in “pay per mile” car insurance, is doing just this.
We asked Metromile’s Senior Acquisition Manager, Kevin Wycoff, to share insights on what this innovative company is doing to attract consumers and educate them on Metromile’s policy offerings and how the affiliate model is helping contribute to scalable growth.
WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR ROLE AT METROMILE?
As a Senior Acquisition Manager, I’m in charge of optimizing the growth of our business and ensure we’re hitting our key success metrics – volume, cost, retention and quality – across direct mail, paid social, our aggregator partners and our affiliate network. I try to ensure we acquire the right blend of customers at the right price.
HOW DID YOU GET STARTED IN THE WORLD OF PAY PER MILE CAR INSURANCE?
Prior to joining Metromile, I spent three years in ad tech managing Facebook advertising strategy for some of today’s most disruptive businesses, including Uber and Dollar Shave Club. After a while, I knew I wanted to make a move in-house and focused my search on finding a consumer-facing product with clear product/market fit and a high-growth potential.
While I wasn’t all that attracted to insurance initially, after meeting the incredibly sharp Metromile team and learning more about their unique business model, I was hooked. I like that I can explain what my company does in one phrase (“per-mile insurance for low mileage drivers”) and have it immediately resonate with most anyone I’m talking to.
WHAT IS A TYPICAL WEEKDAY LIKE?
It can be all over the place. In weeks where I need to get our next mail drop out to print, most of my time is consumed by diving into audience analytics from recent campaigns, ensuring our targeting model development is on track, collaborating with our creative team to align on new messaging tests, and coordinating the logistics of getting ink onto paper and into homes across our footprint.
In other weeks it can be very partnership-focused and include connecting with our Acceleration Partners team and top affiliates to prep content that will resonate with potential customers; having regular syncs with our insurance aggregator partners to tweak traffic filters and adjust commission structures; building internal dashboards to surface performance trends; and making sure our Facebook ad campaigns are meeting efficiency and volume targets. I just try to prioritize my time according to the most pressing needs for the business.
WHAT DO YOU FIND MOST REWARDING ABOUT WORKING AT METROMILE?
As someone who had basically zero experience with insurance companies prior to joining, I’ve been consistently amazed at how complex it is to be successful. Since our primary competitors tend to be over 100x our size and no one else specializing in per-mile insurance, there’s no real playbook or proxies to go off.
Unlike more straightforward industries, getting our economics to a point where we’re comfortable pouring on the marketing gas requires a lot of carefully made actuarial bets and close observance of policy cohorts over the 3+ years they’re on our books. It’s interesting trying to be nimble in a vertical that is slow by nature. It makes my job far more challenging, but also engaging. I’m also fortunate to work with such smart people who are all trying to ensure this business realizes its full potential.
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS SOME OF THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES IN ONLINE MARKETING TODAY?
I think mobile measurement continues to be an area that has lagged behind the sophistication of some of the ad products and targeting capabilities available today. If you think about the amount of time eyeballs spend staring at phone screens these days, being able to properly connect the cross-device dots is hugely important, especially in a space like insurance where people still prefer to complete a purchase on desktop.
Furthermore, using statistical lift models to go beyond click tracking to isolate the value your mobile impressions have on bottom-line acquisition is crucial to justifying and furthering that investment. We’ve tried to be forward-thinking about this at Metromile, but still have a long way to go.
FROM YOUR EXPERIENCE, HOW HAS THE AFFILIATE MARKETING MODEL ADDED VALUE TO METROMILE?
The growth of our affiliate program has come at an opportune time for the business. We’re big enough to have real momentum and have established some core acquisition channels, but one of our biggest challenges is that people aren’t all that familiar with Metromile or the concept of pay-per-mile insurance.
I think of our performance partnerships as strategically placing our brand across the medium/long-tail of the internet to find consumers at behavioral inflection points that have tangential relevance to our offering. You may not be in the market to buy car insurance, but perhaps you just retired and find yourself driving less or have just moved into a city and are looking for ways to optimize your lifestyle – our affiliates help us capture that casual discovery behavior and turn it into demand.
WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF WORKING WITH ACCELERATION PARTNERS?
We’ve been working with Acceleration Partners for about a year now and couldn’t be happier with the experience thus far. Everyone I’ve worked with – from the sales reps, to our dedicated account team, and even the senior leadership – has shown a genuine interest in the success of our partnership.
I came in with little affiliate knowledge and have leaned on AP to help educate me as we work together to define our growth strategy. I have full confidence in the team to manage all core network activity, and have been very impressed with their ability to creatively source new high-potential publishers in pursuit of our aggressive growth goals. The service level is top-tier; I feel like they’re basically members of our marketing team.
WHAT HAS SURPRISED YOU MOST ABOUT THE AFFILIATE MARKETING MODEL?
I continue to be surprised by just how many different forms the affiliate model can take. It requires creativity and persistence to source and build all these partnerships that, over time, snowball into a meaningful source of consumer education and customer acquisition.
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Join The New York Pass program today
The New York Pass affiliate team is constantly looking for new travel-focused content sites to partner with. Joining our program gets you access to promoting the hottest all-inclusive sightseeing pass around. Plus, you get the following benefits as well:
Earn more with our 6% commission rate
Convert more of your visitors into buyers with our high conversion rate of 2.5%
Earn more per order with our large average order size of over $500
Potential to receive free passes in exchange for a review
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Dedicated affiliate team with Acceleration Partners
In this age of media buying, some big questions persist about the effectiveness of programmatic and pay-per-click (PPC) advertising.
Ad view counts can be deceptive, as bots make up a large percentage of so-called viewers. In fact, a report from the security firm Imperva shows that 52 percent of web traffic comes from bots. The Bot Baseline Report’s findings are similarly grim, forecasting losses of $6.5 billion for businesses worldwide caused by bot fraud in 2017.
Bots seem to be much more receptive to display ads than humans. Intrusive PPC ads are seen as a nuisance, as evidenced by the rise of ad blocker software. In 2016, the use of ad blockers across all devices rose by 30 percent, according to a report from PageFair.
Even when inauthentic PPC and programmatic ads aren’t blocked by software, they rarely generate quality leads. Consumers are bombarded with irrelevant ads that fail to make a connection with them — and that’s why affiliate marketing is much more attractive for both businesses and customers.
Beyond Bots and PPC: The Affiliate Approach
Real people almost always ignore generic PPC ads but pay attention to specific publishers or influencers who demonstrate expertise in their niche and thus convey their authenticity. For key demographics, authenticity is paramount: According to research, 43 percent of Millennials must trust the company or site that produced content before they will consume it. Moreover, 61 percent of women won’t click on an influencer’s ad unless it feels genuine.
As companies look for higher-quality leads and more ways to drive results beyond programmatic display and other digital media channels, driving lead generation efforts through affiliate marketing is on the rise. Because people are less likely to ignore niche publishers or influencers who draw upon a specific expertise to genuinely connect with them, many businesses are investing in affiliate marketing for their lead generation programs.
Publishers only get paid when their promotional efforts succeed, and commission payouts are structured around the business’s lead generation goals. Compared to paying upfront fees for programmatic or PPC ads, which often have an uncertain effect on lead generation, these performance partnerships are more attractive to companies.
The Keys to Implementing an Effective Affiliate Program
Both B2C and B2B companies have found that affiliate marketing is one of the most cost-effective, scalable models for enhancing their customer acquisition strategies, generating high-value leads, and driving traffic to their sites. Before you implement an affiliate program at your own company, first carefully consider the answers to the following questions:
What do you want to achieve with affiliate marketing?
Before launching your campaign, it’s essential to define your goals and metrics of success. Generating a certain number of leads requires a specific approach tailored to that goal; determining the end goal of a specific lead takes another tack.
Take a deeper dive into your leads to determine what you expect of them. Is it their information? Do you want them to purchase a product or service, or make a referral? By structuring your commission payout around your goals, your affiliate partners will be aligned with them and working to execute on your brand’s strategy.
Who are you selling to?
By understanding the type of lead you are looking for, you can better identify the types of partners you want to work with. Is your audience college students searching for ways to save money? Or do you want to grow a base of leads that have a large disposable income?
Knowing the answers to these types of questions not only helps you segment the types of publishers you partner with, but it also helps you structure your program’s creative. Understanding your audience segment is key to letting your partners know what messages you want to resonate with their followers.
Your customers will determine the affiliates you choose to work with. If your target demographic is young college students, find an affiliate partner who appeals to that group; alternatively, if you’re a B2B company trying to appeal to executives and board members, you’ll need an affiliate who can sway them. Different types of content naturally attract different groups of people. Make sure your affiliate knows which group you’re going after.
Who do you want to work with?
Focus on quality partnerships rather than quantity.Quality partnership building is the key to a successful affiliate lead generation program. Although it may be tempting to fill your program with as many partners as possible, it’s better to focus on partners who are brand-aligned and have an audience that will deliver the types of leads you want.
This helps you avoid publishers that aren’t aligned with your brand and don’t deliver the types of leads you want. Having high-value partners who drive steady traffic is preferable to dealing with fraudulent, low-quality lead issues.
As with any other business partnership, your relationship with your affiliate should be based on shared values. There are plenty of content creators and niche experts, but not all of them will resonate with your company and your customers. Instead of gathering a high number of affiliates from your field, focus on selecting only those who will best connect with your customers. Solid affiliates will earn more commissions for themselves while attracting the right kind of leads for you.
How will you compensate your affiliates?
Ideally, your affiliates would immediately know whether their leads were valid or not; unfortunately, depending on the end goal for your lead, that process may take minutes or months to complete. Either way, maintaining transparent communication with your partners about how often and when lead quality will be evaluated is important to growing a strong relationship with them. Be sure to set clear expectations with your partners by defining what a quality lead looks like so that they can send the highest quality lead volume your way.
Once you have determined clear metrics for success, decide how you will reward your affiliates for meeting them. You could reward affiliates every time one of their leads fills out an online form or only when one of their leads makes a purchase. Make these end goals clear to your affiliates so that they’ll direct their energy toward meeting them.
In terms of compensation, you could offer a percentage of sales or a set dollar amount for a number of leads. Alternatively, providing influencers with promotional giveaways is a great opportunity for them to create content and engage with followers while receiving a free product as compensation.
Where are you heading?
After creating quality relationships with your affiliate partners, it’s essential to keep them engaged once you start seeing success from their efforts. Get creative — create campaigns to incentivize your affiliates to promote your program and encourage their followers to convert.
These tested tactics have produced successful results:
Offer a tiered commission structure: Say you give affiliates $10 for the first 100 valid leads they bring to you; you might further reward them with $20 for all valid leads beyond the first 100 leads. This tiered commission structure is a great way to incentivize your highest-performing partners to bring in even more quality leads.
Offer a giveaway to a relevant microinfluencer: Microinfluencers have highly engaged audiences, which makes them great affiliate partners. By offering a promotional giveaway to microinfluencers, you allow them to create exciting content on their site and give their followers the chance to win a prize from your company. It’s a win-win-win!
Starting an affiliate partnership will sometimes bring immediate results, but businesses and affiliates both usually benefit the most from sustained, nurtured relationships. Maintain trust with clear, open communication about commission, company goals, and target demographics.
As the marketing landscape continues to change with new technology, affiliate partnerships remain the strongest avenue for creating connections with consumers. Inauthentic and intrusive PPC and programmatic ads are clearly falling by the wayside. The companies that develop strong affiliate partnerships will pick up those customers who have their ad blockers on.