Affiliate Marketing Blog by Geno Prussakov - Geno talks about affiliate marketing, leadership, etc
Geno Prussakov on September 30th, 2016

birthdayEarlier this year, AM Navigator turned 10.

We didn’t make noise around it, as our deeds have always spoken louder that any words.

In the course of these years we launched and managed well over 100 affiliate programs across all of the world’s major affiliate networks (CJ, Rakuten, Pepperjam, ShareASale, AvantLink, Affiliate Window, Webgains, Commission Factory, etc). Our clients ranged from major brands (like Forbes.com, MetLife, Hallmark, FreshBooks, Skype, Medifast, and Travelex) to many small(er) companies; with millions in revenue brought to them via the affiliate marketing programs that we’ve managed.

However, there is something else that we’ve been doing throughout all these years — something that contributed to the online success of thousands of businesses. I am referring to the educational activity to which I’ve been true all these years, and something that I’m especially proud of.

It was in 2006 that I completed my very first book on affiliate marketing and won the first “Best Outsourced Affiliate Program Manager” of the year award. In 2007 I started blogging and spoke at my very first conference. In 2009 I made it my New Year’s resolution to blog daily and stuck with this frequency for two years straight (pacing it down to five days a week only in the third year). Today, all of my books, blog posts, articles, video courses, webinars, and conference presentations combined account for well over 1,500 of content pieces produced.

Understanding the challenge of navigating around all of this content, we’ve decided to make you a gift on our 10th birthday — the Affiliate Marketing Knowledge Base.

Affiliate marketing knowledge base

Of course, these are only select pieces of content that we have produced. Our job was not to overwhelm you, but make things more manageable and more digestible. We will be expanding this section of our website going forward, but keeping it conveniently categorized and easy to use.

Happy 10th Birthday to us!! 🙂

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Geno Prussakov on September 28th, 2016

Amazon.com is the planet’s biggest online store (whose 2015 revenue exceeded $100 Billion). Walmart, on the other hand, is the world’s largest company by revenue ($482.1 Billion in 2015) and also the globe’s largest corporate employer (third only to the U.S. Department of Defense and Chinese Army).

Both of these remarkable businesses actively employ affiliate marketing to generate sales.

What can we learn from how they run their affiliate marketing programs? Many things; but covering fifteen specific bases makes these advertisers especially successful with affiliates. Below you may find my list of these key elements, explanation of each, as well as a video, and a slide deck to support these.

Affiliate Marketing Lessons from Amazon & Walmart

1. Program Support Website: Both of Amazon and Walmart do a stellar job supporting their affiliate program via Amazon.com Associates site and Walmart Affiliate Link respectively.

2. Performance Incentives: When it comes to motivating affiliate performance, Amazon is famous for their volume-based affiliate payout structure, whereby the more products you sell, the more commissions you get paid.

3. Deep-Linking Capability: Both Amazon and Walmart realize that deep-linked affiliate campaigns yield higher conversion rates. Therefore, they both offer affiliates a way to link to any page within their websites via an affiliate/tracked link.

4. Variety of Creatives: From standard size banners to text links (which lead to the best-performing sections of their websites), and on to widgets and product feeds, both of these advertisers offer affiliates a wide array of creative material to work with.

5. Ease of Integration: Following Walmart’s and Amazon’s example(s), make it wasy for your affiliates to activate with your program by offering them educational resources, motivating incentives, tools that equip, and ongoing support

6. Communication: To keep their affiliates up-to-date on what’s going on in their affiliate programs, these two giants send between 7 and 10 affiliate newsletters on a monthly basis. We recommend bi-weekly newsletters, but if you have enough information to share at this frequency, it may be worth experimenting with it.

7. Empowering Bloggers: Realizing that content-producers (bloggers, specifically) are among the most coveted types of affiliates, Walmart.com put together a WordPress plugin to help automatically convert relevant text to affiliate links.

8. Equipping Developers: Who else is more capable of turning an affiliate program around than a web-developer? Both Amazon and Walmart realize this and equip them with Amazon Product Advertising APIs and Walmart Open API Developer Portal respectively.

9. Attracting Mobile App and Game Developers: We’ve been talking about mobile being “the next big thing” for years, but it’s already here and it’s already big (with as much as half of affiliate-referred transactions originating from mobile devices). However, Amazon is one of very few advertisers that offers something like their Mobile Associates API for game and app developers to sell their products within the mobile apps.

10. Ongoing Conversion Rate Optimization: Both Amazon and Walmart are big on CRO, with the former often running over a hundred of tests simultaneously. No wonder why their affiliates enjoy conversion rates of up to 17.6% [details here].

11. Fairness to “Closers”: When educating affiliates about the types of links to use, Amazon.com encourages them to use “Add-to-Cart” buttons and the reason is more than compelling: once the item is placed in the card the affiliate can then “receive credit for the purchase as long as the customer places their order within 90 days” (as opposed to their standard 24-hour affiliate cookie life).

12. Exclusive Contracts: More than once, when trying to onboard an Amazon affiliate into another affiliate program, we hear this response: “Amazon is the exclusive advertiser on my sites. Moreover, they covert better.” The latter convincingly justifies the former; and I applaud a merchant who can get valuable affiliates to agree to such relationships. Class act, hands down!

13. Stance on Affiliate Adware: If you look at Walmart affiliate program’s Terms of Use, you will read that affiliates are prohibited from employing web browser add-ons, toolbars or “any type of software download or technology which attempts to intercept or redirect traffic or referral fees to or from any website.” If you are not familiar with the topic, read these articles.

14. Policies on TM-Centric URLs: Amazon turns down affiliates that “include any trademark of Amazon or its affiliates, or a variant of misspelling of a trademark… in any domain name” [source]. Walmart similarly warns affiliates against the use of “trademarks, or any variation or misspelling thereof, in metatags, hidden text or source code” or in their “domain name or any other part” of the URL [source].

15. Holiday Marketing: Finally, there is something we can learn from both of these giants in how they treat holidays. Both Amazon.com and Walmart.com efficiently equip their affiliates with everything needed to market them effectively during the key holidays throughout the year.

Here is a detailed (nearly an hour-long) presentation on the topic which I delivered at Affiliate Summit in New York City last summer:


 

The corresponding slide deck may be found below:

So… follow along, take notes, and come up with a list of action points to implement in your own affiliate program.

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Geno Prussakov on September 26th, 2016

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens,” but every season is right to have a good cookie or cake! So, with pleasure, I bring you our sweet client, David’s Cookies.

Cookies, cakes, gifts affiliate programStarted by a classically-trained French chef, David Liederman, the business not only has well over 200 stores globally, but also runs a thriving online storefront.

Regardless of how the name may read, they sell so much more than just cookies. Beyond 22 different varieties of fresh-baked cookies, their inventory is also rich in crumbcakes and brownies, cheesecakes and truffle cakes, birthday cakes, tarts, and much more; with sugar-free, dairy-free, and gluten-free products also available.

Additionally, there are several monthly gift clubs to choose from as well.

Furthermore, the inventory is conveniently categorized to help you offer edible gifts fit for season-specific holidays (from Rosh Hashanah to Thanksgiving, and from Halloween to Christmas), events, and occasions (graduation, birthdays, housewarming, anniversaries, and much more).

So, whether you produce cookies/cakes-related content or are looking for beautiful seasonal gifts to offer to your audience, we invite you to join this affiliate program. We run this program on Rakuten Affiliate Network, with 30-days’ cookie life and the following tiered payouts:

  • Default: 6% commission
  • $299.00 – $598.99: 9%
  • $599.00 – $999.99: 12%
  • $1,000.00 and above: 15%

Should you have any questions about this advertiser, do not hesitate to email them our way, and we’ll get back back with you ASAP.

Also, feel free to post your questions under this post (using the “Comments” function).

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Geno Prussakov on September 23rd, 2016

Yesterday, a post on the “podcasts all affiliate marketers should subscribe to” appeared on Forbes.com. It listed great podcasts, and I especially appreciated the author’s approach — one underscoring the multifacetedness of affiliate marketing and the consequent “need to be updated on what’s going on everywhere at all times.”

Affiliate marketing podcastsHowever, a number of really solid affiliate marketing podcasts (run by the industry’s veterans) were missed from that list altogether. Hence, my below attempt to fix the situation.

Here are the five affiliate marketing podcasts that I recommend for your consideration (in alphabetical order only):

“Affiliate Buzz” with James Martell

This is the very first and longest running podcast about affiliate marketing. As I’m typing this post, the total number of podcasts that James put out there is nearing 450. Throughout the years I had a privilege of appearing on a couple of these too.

“Affiliate Marketing & Performance Opinion” with James Little

James Little’s podcast features “interviews, case studies and updates from affiliate marketing professionals all over the world.”

“Rise of the Entrepreneur” with Zac Johnson

Zac’s bi-weekly podcast (occurring every Tuesday and Thursday) broadcasts “real life interviews and stories with some of the world’s greatest entrepreneurs,” including nearly every influential affiliate marketing professional out there.

“This is Affiliate Marketing” with Shawn Collins

While this podcast was started only in 2016, Shawn Collins is certainly not new to affiliate marketing or podcasting. With his newest podcast he is trying to go away from the focus on “the nuts and bolts of affiliate marketing” and rather concentrate on “the people of affiliate marketing.”

“Smart Passive Income” with Pat Flynn

Finally, Pat’s weekly podcast which broadcasts interviews, how-to knowledge, “strategy, and advice for building your online business.” No wonder why it holds several “Best Business Podcast” awards.

If I have missed your favorite affiliate marketing podcast, by all means, do suggest it using the “Comments” area below.

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Geno Prussakov on September 21st, 2016

An interesting question came to me from a Europe-based consultant who is now focused on affiliate recruitment for a client. His current focus is U.S. affiliates. After describing his situation, he asked:

Do you know where I would be able to find a list of the biggest 15-20 partners on the average US program?

The short answer is: you can identify some of the top affiliates by looking through the available lists of “super affiliates” as well as by browsing network-specific directories (when available/accessible). However, don’t be surprised to find some of the rankings heavily skewed towards deals-oriented publishers and loyalty-focused affiliates.

The longer answer goes like this: there are three points to keep in mind while answering the above question.

#1. Semantics

First of all, there is no such a thing as an “average” affiliate program.

Affiliate marketing semanticsA brand’s affiliate marketing program is always tied to a concrete vertical, the goals it seeks to achieve, and the associated payment model(s).

There is no way one can compare the affiliate base of an auto insurance-oriented affiliate program which is paying a flat amount per every referred lead to a program run by a lingerie brand which is paying a commission tied to the sale amount. They operate in different verticals, seek different goals, and employ different payment models.

Our analysis of America’s best-performing affiliate programs helps visualize the current spread between the various verticals.

#2. Program Rules

Secondly, the distribution of the top-performing affiliates is heavily-dependent on the affiliate program’s rules and restrictions.

Affiliate program restrictionsSome brands choose not to work with coupon-oriented affiliates, while others embrace them but restrict their activity to coupons created specifically for the affiliate program. Some advertisers prohibit affiliates from engaging in paid search marketing, others allow it but place specific restrictions (on keywords, ad copy, and/or linking of the paid search ad). Restrictions may be applied to any type of affiliate or their primary promotional methods (from cashback to toolbars, and from email to sub-affiliate arrangements).

So, program rules have a great effect on how your top affiliates will stack up.

#3. Performance Data

Missing piece of the puzzleFinally, while we can assume the total traffic received by an affiliate’s website (using Alexa, Quantcast, Compete, and similar tools), study its influence (based on the number of followers and their engagement with the publisher’s content), and even presuppose a conversion rate (be it based on the affiliate’s marketing methods or assuming an average across any given affiliate program), there will always be an important piece missing. The data on the traffic referred by the affiliate to a concrete merchant is something that’s really hard to infer. Of course, this information is available, but only to the advertiser and the tracking platform that supports their affiliate program.

 

Having said all of the above, content-oriented affiliates (be it reviewers focused on textual content, or how-to instructors producing visual content, or “Mommy bloggers”) as well as tools (such as VigLink and Skimlinks) that help content creators and curators monetize their content can be a really powerful addition to your affiliate base, regardless of the vertical or program structure. No wonder why they are among the most coveted types of affiliates out there.

Remember, though, that it’s your affiliate program specifics that will always dictate the optimal types of affiliates to work with.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic. So, do chime in with your comments below!

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Geno Prussakov on September 19th, 2016

Whether you are an affiliate working in the Beauty vertical, or a marketer catering to Travel-focused audiences, or Business ladies, you’re gonna love Stowaway Cosmetics.

Stowaway Affiliate ProgramThis client of ours sells “premium cosmetics that are half the size and half the price.” The idea is simple and ingenious — offer busy women quality cosmetics that’s easy to carry.

Since 1950s the sizes of lipstick and mascaras remained unaltered. Stowaway changed things around. Their makeup products are designed to be finished before they expire and packaged in sizes that are perfectly portable and TSA approved.

Featured in The New York Times and Cosmopolitan, Bloomberg Business Week and Condé Nast Traveler, Stowaway chose AM Navigator to run their affiliate marketing program.

Realizing not only the fact that affiliate marketers can effectively promote the idea of “right-sized makeup,” but also the reality that it takes serious commitment and effort, Stowaway was happy to have us set their affiliate program up with generous 45-days’ cookie life and impressive commission levels. Here is what their affiliate program pays:

  • Default: 20% commission
  • $1,000-1,999: 21%
  • $2,000-2,999: 22%
  • $3,000-3,999: 23%
  • $4,000-4,999: 24%
  • $5,000 or over: 25%

The program is run on CJ affiliate network, and you may join it here.

We are looking forward to working with you through this affiliate program.

Should you have any questions about this makeup affiliate program, do not hesitate to email them to us. As with all our clients, the response time of the dedicated program manager (be it to your application or a question) is 24 hours or less.

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Geno Prussakov on September 14th, 2016

Earlier today I spoke at CJU 2016, one of the year’s major affiliate marketing events. This was my fifty-eighth time addressing people from stage but my very first time speaking at a CJU.

The room full of over 150 digital marketing managers of Fortune 500 companies was a perfect place to deliver my perspective. I’ve been pondering on this for some time, pointing to the problem five years ago in one of my books, and it was good to have the chance of driving the point home with such a targeted crowd.

Affiliate marketing is not a marketing channel!

 

…but why should anyone care what we call it, you ask?

If you want me to cut straight to the core of it, here is my answer:

When affiliate marketing is perceived as just one of online marketing channels (as presented here, here, here, and in many other places), it is being treated as just one of the available avenues to carry the marketing message from the brand to the end consumer.

As a result, when budgets are being allocated between the channels it is competing (for the attention and funding) with the brand’s own paid search, email, retargetting, display, and other marketing efforts. And guess where it lands? According to Econsultancy/Oracle’s Cross-Channel Marketing Report 2015 affiliate marketing is number 14 on the list of marketers’ priorities (just a notch above telemarketing).

I believe that we lead to it. Popularizing affiliate marketing and seeking to validate a once nascent type of marketing, we ourselves started calling it a “marketing channel” and keep doing it up to this day.

Years ago I ran a contest for the best definition of “affiliate marketing,” and the entry that won the first place remains to be my favorite definition of it. Chris Sanderson of AMWSO said that “affiliate marketing is the art of doing a merchant’s marketing better than they can, and profiting from it.”

This is exactly my point!

Instead of having affiliates compete with the brand’s own marketing efforts, have them complement what you do by levering their strengths and expertise. But to achieve this is it is integral, to first (a) understand affiliate marketing’s true place in your marketing mix, then (b) diversify your affiliate base tapping into the various marketing channels used by different types of affiliates, and (c) ensure that your relationship is structured in a way that they complement your own marketing efforts.

Last year, I wrote about the types of affiliates many of which you may not even be aboard your affiliate program yet. Between all the different types (and the techniques used by them) you can effectively cover all phases of your customer’s journey:

1. Awareness Phase: Here you can lever the efforts of display advertising affiliates (like SmalBizTrends.com), monetization tools (like Skimlinks and VigLink), ranking sites (like TopTenReviews.com), and social media influencers.

2. Consideration Stage: On this phase, producers of textual and visual content, data feed affiliates (like ShopStyle.com), pay-per-call publishers, and those producing product/service reviews can help lubricate the path to conversion.

3. Action Phase: Finally, such affiliate types as charities and fundraising organizations, loyalty and rebates affiliates (note: they are not compatible with PPL affiliate programs), and retargeting arrangements (with technologies from UpSellit, ve interactive, and others) can help you close the path to conversion.

Marketing Funnel and Affiliates

Additionally, there are also cross-phase types of affiliates out there: from email marketers to mobile-oriented publishers, and from pay-per-click specialists to sub-affiliate networks.

The time has come for everyone to seriously rethink affiliate marketing’s place in the marketing ecosystem. Only when brands realize its truly cross-channel nature will they be able to build diverse, agile, and holistic affiliate programs.

 

Geno Prussakov on July 27th, 2016

When you have a product or a service to sell, one of your primary tasks lays in finding the shortest and surest way to your customer’s heart.

For years marketing theorists have been analyzing and practitioners experimenting with an array of vehicles to carry the message from the advertiser to the end-consumer. Some have been more effective than others.

In recent years, one particular type of marketing has been on the notable rise — Influencer Marketing. So much so that in 2015 Google classified the key phrase “influencer marketing” as a “Breakout” term or one experiencing search growth greater than 5,000% which indicated a quickly-growing interest in it.

Since then, its popularity has only continued to grow. Per American Marketing Association eight out of ten marketers say they plan to use influencer marketing in their strategy this year.

Influencer marketing

Some call it “word-of-mouth marketing on steroids,” others believe it to be an evolved form of affiliate marketing [more here], and content about it is published literally daily. This is hardly surprising.  A study by Tomoson calls “fastest-growing online customer acquisition method” whose cost-effectiveness  is second to none.

 

03_Most-cost-effective-online-customer-acquisition-method

In continuation of the great success of Affiliate Management Days conference, in an effort to provide an environment for marketing and public relations processionals to discuss influencer marketing’s latest developments and best practices, I am excited to bring you my brand new conference — Influencer Marketing Days.

Mark your calendars!! I hope to see you in New York this fall!

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Geno Prussakov on July 12th, 2016

I’ve been running these giveaways for more than 3.5 years, with nearly 30 passes won by my blog’s readers since the first draw I ran.

nyc-e1397166164184This year is no exception. Passes to Affiliate Summit’s Las Vegas show were won in winter, and with the summer show being just a few short weeks away, today I am pleased to announce the 2016 Summer Giveaway of 3 Affiliate Summit passes!

This will be my 15th time speaking at the conference, and I want you to be there too. Hence, the giveaway…

As frequently is the case, the contest is tied to the topic of my upcoming Affiliate Summit presentation — “10 Ways to Make Your Affiliate Program Stand Out.”

The more crowded the affiliate program landscape becomes, the harder it gets for advertisers (especially those who are just entering the game) to stand out from the crowd and be noticed by affiliates. I also think that there are two ways in which each program needs to stand out: (i) in marketing to affiliates, and (ii) in marketing through them. On the first level we want our program to be(come) attractive to join, while on the second we want it to be(come) easy to succeed with.

In connection with all of the above-mentioned, here’s how this contest will run:

Task: (a) Tweet one way in which advertisers can make their affiliate programs stand out, (b) posting the same in the comments below, and making sure you (c) hashtag  your Tweet #ASE16 and (d) enter into it a link to this contest.

Prizes: 3 Networking Plus Passes (access to Meet Market, Exhibit Hall, keynotes speeches, first-timer’s orientation, streaming access to videos of all sessions, and multiple networking opportunities). Currently valued at $549.00 (and $749.00 should space be available).

Deadline(s): With ASE16 being just three weeks away, make sure to enter no later than the end of day of Tuesday, July 19. I will announce the three winners on July 20.

According to this post, the conference is heading for a sellout. So, better hop aboard before it’s too late!!

Now looking forward to hearing your thoughts!!

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Geno Prussakov on July 7th, 2016

No week passes by without someone reaching out to me via social media about their “great” affiliate program. Somehow Twitter and LinkedIn end up being the top platforms preferred by most of these recruiters. Having received another one of such invites via Twitter, I thought of putting together a blog post dissecting the anatomy of an affiliate recruitment Tweet/post doomed to failure.

Affiliate recruitmentBut, after giving it some thought, I realized that it makes much more sense flipping this idea around and turning criticisms into attributes of an effective affiliate recruitment outreach, regardless of the medium used, to be honest.

Unless you’re aiming to make your program a bad name (and become known to the affiliate marketing industry as a social media spammer) there are 5 specific characteristics that need to be true about your affiliate recruitment efforts.

5 Attributes of Effective Affiliate Outreach

Targeted

Nothing is more useless than an untargeted blanket Tweet. Do your homework to ensure that (a) your “prospect” is indeed an active affiliate publisher, and (b) that there is audience resonance between their fans, friends, and followers and your target audience.

Tailored

Besides digging into the information about your prospect and their audience, look at their website (or whatever other online activity of theirs you believe they could monetize through your affiliate program) and share with them your idea on why you believe this partnership may be a good fit.

Relevant

Instead of purely cold calling, design conversations [more here], reacting to what’s important to them, aiming to first help, and only then gently get to your point. Don’t just spam people with your ultimate-and-easy-money-making-machine affiliate program invitation. You’re putting your brand on the frontline here. Don’t damage it.

Mutually Beneficial

So you are looking to onboard new affiliates. Excellent. But it’s not only about you now! To build a bridge value their time, attention, and effort; and make a compelling case for a mutually beneficial arrangement. Be ready to reward them for activating with you affiliate program, or even just for signing up. You’ll be amazed what a difference a $10 gift card, a product to try, or a commission increase, can make.

Straightforward

Drop the “marketing talk.” You are now marketing to marketers. Give them concrete data (without doing the math for them, though) keeping it eloquent and straightforward. They will appreciate it.

If you want your affiliate recruitment efforts to succeed, make sure that you are hitting all of the above points in your Tweets, posts, and messages to prospective affiliates.

And remember: you never get a second chance to make that first impression!

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