16 Make-or-Break Take-Aways From Business This Year

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Affiliate Marketing Learnings 2015

For the past 12 years I have been out there: learning, speaking, listening, teaching, helping, evolving and sharing my thoughts and findings about performance (affiliate) marketing with the world. However that time and effort was mainly focused outwardly in the performance and digital marketing space versus understanding my own business as a whole.  This year, I’ve been forced to look internally, re-focusing my attention back on my business, team and re-establishing a solid foundation to support organizational growth.

In just three and a half years, we have gone from five full time people to 32 team members today. We have seen an average of 100% growth year over year as a company for six years straight. Calculating our growth rate over the past five years, we are sitting at about 5900% growth.

As a result of that growth, we have gone from only servicing small to medium sized businesses to servicing and consulting for leaders in ecommerce, travel and B2C Lead Gen, including enterprise level brands such as Southwest Vacations, Dropbox, Norton by Symantec, and Swiss Watch International to name a few.

The industry as a whole has changed rapidly. Where there were only a couple of dozen “affiliate management” companies in 2009 when we launched, there are now over 400 “digital and performance marketing agencies” who offer affiliate program management or partnership management of some sort, amongst many other products and professional services.

As a result, and in order to remain a leader in the digital and performance marketing space, some things had to change within our own business:

  • Our internal systems, processes and procedures needed to be updated and tied to a different company structure that could support a stronger growth team, larger clients and an unbreakable corporate culture.
  • We needed a dedicated operations team who could ensure the seamless execution of tasks, system and resource allocation, including HR.
  • We needed an internal training and mentoring system (buddy system) for newer recruits to feel supported and brought up to speed on both industry and AIM standards of excellence.
  • We needed to invest in proprietary and third party tools that would help us further differentiate ourselves by adding incremental value around data insights, technology and program growth, while supporting our drive for innovation, seamless execution and solid results.   
  • We needed to be more selective of both new team members and clients, to ensure there was perfect alignment with the culture, needs, expertise and the growth that could be achieved together.

In just six months (about the same amount of time I had taken from my blogging to focus on corporate growth), we have been able to address all of these pieces, and although they have not been entirely perfected, they have made an immediate impact on:

  • Our ability to grow our client, partner and team profitability and results even further
  • Our client, team and partner experience, boosting morale, retention and satisfaction
  • Team re-alignment, corporate culture, and the renewed bond and constant communication between high performance teams

Further, with a focus on strengthening our internal team and operations, we have seen the following results:

  • Our clients average YOY program growth was 167%
  • Team and client satisfaction rates increased by 112%
  • Our company revenues grew (without any focused marketing or sales efforts) by 97%
  • We have been able to maintain our A+ rating on the BBB for excellence, integrity and client satisfaction

Through this experience and in embracing and working more closely with our team, I have personally grown as a business leader and entrepreneur. I’m incredibly grateful for the grit, dedication, focus and hustle of our team, and I’m grateful for our friendship, purpose and combined passion for becoming and remaining a leader in our space. We are here to strive for constant excellence, to DIGG (our motto: Delight, Innovate, Grow, Giveback) at all times, and to become the very best versions of ourselves possible.

My learnings over the past six months have allowed me to understand a few more things about myself as a business leader as well. I better understand where to focus my attention, and how to invest my time and resources most wisely to make the biggest difference.

As a business owner, here are my key takeaways from this past year:

  • Your culture and people are everything. Invest in them. Nurture them. Embrace them. Love them. Choose them wisely. They become the foundation of your business, an extension to yourself, the memory of your client experiences, and the driver of your overall results.
  • It’s important to live and breathe your motto every day and build it into your culture. Ours is to DIGG at all times: To Delight, Innovate, Grow and Giveback.  Every person on our team strives for this, and we hold each other accountable to it.
  • Keep investing in yourself, your team and your business. As soon as you stop, you become stagnant and diminish your value greatly.
  • Always strive for excellence even during tough times when you are transitioning. Never settle for “acceptable” or “good enough”. As a team, we have embraced the vision of setting the new standard for what is considered “exceptional” in the performance and digital marketing space. We will continue to push our limits and strive for that next discovery, that next best practice, the best incremental result.

Going into the new year and forevermore, we are focused on four key metrics: D.I.G.G.

  • Delight – Through the experiences of our team, clients, partners and all stakeholders, measured by Net Promotor Scores and quality & quantity of feedback.
  • Innovate – Learn, push limits and try new things. We will forever be improving our systems, processes, and finding better ways to do things that result in stronger value and ROI.
  • Grow – Personally and professionally as a team, and in the results we drive for our clients through new customer acquisition, profitable sales growth and increased performance metrics.
  • Giveback – Through industry education, volunteerism, resource allocation and personalized care of the people and causes that mean the most to us.

We look forward to an incredible year ahead of us, and sincerely thank everyone who stuck by us through our year of learning and transition, and for the constant faith and support as we evolved into something much stronger than we ever were before.

Here is to setting a new standard and continuing to strive for exceptional at all times.

What has been your biggest take-away or key learning this year?