Industry Changes and Opportunities – An Interview with ShareASale Founder Brian Littleton

Brian Littleton interviewOne of the things I find most exciting about the performance marketing industry is how it is always changing, and how that change creates new and diverse opportunities. This week I had the pleasure of interviewing President and CEO of ShareASale, Brian Littleton on the subject.

Sarah: What are the major industry changes you’ve seen over the last two years and how has ShareASale adjusted to keep up with those changes?

Brian: The biggest change came in 2-parts. Starting with the breakup of the Google Affiliate Network, the industry took a moment to really look at some topics that I think were always there but the event forced so many retailers to analyze their Affiliate Channel at one specific moment that those topics came screaming to the forefront. Of course, I’m talking about attribution and its related topics. So many retailers used that opportunity (and technology providers as well) to look at attribution because they were forced to find entirely new technology partners in a very short amount of time.

From ShareASale’s perspective, this was a welcome moment – not because of the loss of GAN in our industry – but because retailers started asking the questions that we had had answers to for several years. Our Clickstream “Leapfrog” technology, Coupon Code Tracking, Mobile App Install Tracking, and other related products saw huge increases in usage and interest – even though many of them had been around for years. Sure, the industry might have known about attribution long before that moment when GAN closed their doors, but the intense focus of that event really brought these issues to light.

Sarah: Where do you see the biggest opportunities for merchants and affiliates in optimizing their earning opportunities going into Q4 and 2015?

Brian: I think preparation and diversity are keys that shouldn’t be overlooked, but honestly one of the most important things to do is to actually pay attention ON Black Friday and Cyber Week. I see huge bunches of both Affiliates and Retailers missing out on earning opportunities because they simply aren’t paying close attention on those dates. Deals pop-up, trends are spotted and shared, and emails are flying at a near constant pace starting on Black Friday. Personally, I run a blogger group where I may post 15-20 times during the day to let people know what kinds of trends I am noticing – and some of those bloggers take great advantage of that information.

Sarah: With ShareASale ThinkTank around the corner, what do you personally want to see happen as a result of this show?

Brian: ShareASale’s ThinkTank has been such a fun event for me to host every year. We’ve been a little sporadic with our schedule, switching from May to October commonly depending on where we plan to host it, but this will be the 9th time we have hosted the event. My biggest goal, every year, is just to see individuals grow in their business – and it happens all the time. All I really have to do is put a Blogger and a Merchant in the same room and let them do their thing. Sure, we provide educational opportunities and networking – but the real magic is just in the interaction of those two parties trying to find ways to do more business together. I’m also excited, this year, for some pretty major product announcements that we’ll be rolling out as well!

About ShareASale

ShareASale has been in business for 13 years, exclusively as an Affiliate Marketing Network. Our technology receives accolades for speed, efficiency, and accuracy – and our reputation as a fair and honest business is well known within the industry. Our objective is to provide customers with an advanced Affiliate Marketing platform. We strive to deliver the best product in the industry, and support it with superior customer service provided by people that will follow up, call back, and provide real solutions. Stay connected by visiting them on Twitter and Facebook.

Small Business Influencer Awards

Every year, Small Business Influencers recognizes some incredible people who are nominated for and voted by their community as people who’ve contributed much to their industries.

I’m honoured and thrilled to announce All Inclusive Marketing has been recognized for not one but three different awards by their community. We’ve have nominations for both myself and our Director of Content Marketing, Lisa Picarille, as well as for Growth Story with client, Abe’s Market.

Voting ends in less than a week, and we’d love your support and click to vote! Votes count and we currently have a great chance of winning at least one award. It appears you can vote once per day and per device. We appreciate your support, and thanks to those who nominated our team and our client. Best of luck to everyone on the list!

Please click here to vote today:

Lisa Picarille, Industry Expert

Sarah Bundy, Industry Expert

Abe’s Market, Growth Story

5 Key Takeaways for Running a Successful Business: Lessons Learned

Today, June 1, 2014, All Inclusive Marketing celebrates its five-year anniversary. We have had a lot of ups and downs over the past five years. But it is with immense gratitude and humility I reflect on some of the hard lessons I’ve learned along the way.

 

1. Your Power is in Your People

We’ve gone through many teammates trying to find the perfect fit for our company and culture. We want people who see our vision, live and breathe our mottos, deeply care about their impact with our team and clients, and put forward the heart and soul to see themselves and those around them succeed.

Investing in the right people was the first turning point for AIM that allowed us to grow into a global leader, and I’m exceedingly grateful for our team who strive to make AIM even more successful every day.

 

2. Zip it and Listen

One of the more humbling lessons I’ve learned over the past five years is both giving and receiving honest feedback. At AIM we encourage our team to constantly strive for greatness. We want them to achieve personal and professional growth. We give each other constructive feedback and work very closely as a team to vet everything we do to ensure only the best quality work is put forward.

Through that process, I have learned that I don’t always have the right answer. However, by listening and understanding people’s different communication styles and personality types, I can adjust how I behave and what I do to be a better leader and make better decisions with and for the team. It has ultimately produced better results and increased moral.

I work on this every day. Some days I’m better at it than others. And our entire team has the mentality of constant growth and improvement, which allows us to flourish together. For that I’m extremely grateful.

 

3. You Can’t do it Alone

There are things I’m very good at and much I bring to the table that makes me a strong, valuable player on our team. However, I’m lacking in other areas. Luckily, I’ve quickly found my strengths and weaknesses. I’ve learned that it’s okay to rely on others and delegate. In fact, it’s essential if you’re going to move forward as a leader in your space.

When I finally let go of the ropes and allow other people help me, they always managed to rise to the task. Giving them complete accountability for their areas of responsibility is empowering and that’s when AIM started to see its greatest success.

It’s OK to rely on others to help you, which is why #1 is so essential when hiring the right team. By understanding your own key strengths and weaknesses you’ll have a better time finding people who are exceptional at the things you’re not so good at, making you that much stronger in the end.

 

4. Work, Life Balance is Essential to Business Success and Your Sanity

If you’re burnt out, you’re not much use. I’ve burned out a couple of times since starting this company. It happened once when I brought my infant to a big industry conference where I was speaking; we had a booth; I was live blogging sessions; and I was nursing my baby. This particular conference was my third that month. Another time I had 10 flights in 6 days between three countries and three speaking sessions at three conferences while raising two little kids. You do the math. It all added up to me in the emergency room getting X-rays for Pneumonia and subsequently being bed-ridden for two weeks.

Although it was a crazy time, I look back now and I’m still grateful I did it because it helped establish ourselves as industry leaders and close some higher profile clients that helped take our business to the next level. However, it’s not something I would risk doing again, or even recommend to others.

Driving myself that hard is not worth my sanity, my health and wellbeing, my ability to enjoy time with my family and ensure I’m strong for my team. Life is short. I’ve learned to take better care of myself and lead my team through example, so they can find a better work/life balance too.

 

5. Never Give Up

Where there is a will, there’s a way. Energy and persistence conquer all things. That’s one of my favorite quotes from Benjamin Franklin.

I can’t tell you the number of times my husband and partner, Iain, and I looked at each other and considered shutting down shop in the first two years and going back to work for someone else. It’s certainly an easier path – a steady paycheck, benefits, paid vacation time, etc.

Being a business owner is not easy. However, the fire inside us would start burning and we always found a way to make our business work. We kept digging. Kept pushing. Kept fighting for the lives we wanted for each other and our family. And one day we turned a corner. And then another. And instead of taking two steps back and one step forward, we found ourselves taking one step forward, then another, then another, until we felt like we were spring-boarding ahead.

Life is not simple by any means. Whatever direction you chose to go, and whatever challenges you are having, others in a different city, life and situation also have their own challenges they are facing. The difference between those who succeed and those who don’t is whether those people decided to quit or not.

So, if you love what you do and you believe in it, never give up. You will find a way, and in the end you will make it work. In our case, we’re exceptionally blessed for how things have worked out. We continue to work hard every day on making our business a success, and are grateful for every opportunity that continues to come our way.

Hottest Content Marketing Event of the Year: Content Marketing World 2014

I loved this article Jules Babcock wrote about Content Marketing World as we get closer to the event coming in September of this year. It’s a fun read and absolutely worth checking out if you understand the value of content marketing in the world of digital marketing today.

Imagine the scene: You arrive in Cleveland on September 8th, it’s a gorgeous day and you’re pumped to head to the largest content marketing event of the year, Content Marketing World

After checking into your hotel and tweeting about how excited you are to see Kevin Spacey speak at #CMWorld (maybe you’ll meet him! Wouldn’t that would rock your world?!), you head to the Convention Centre to kickoff the whole event by attending a pre-event workshop.

You can’t miss the mobile business boat so you decided (after tough deliberation of the 12 workshops) on the Constructing and Executing a Mobile Content Marketing Strategy workshop – it’s probably going to be so informative you brought spare business pens, a laptop, a tablet, and a notebook!

By the end of the workshop you’re so pleased with your decision you decide to celebrate by attending the Opening Night Reception for some food, drinks and networking, where those extra business pens will come in handy!

Tuesday starts with a bang at 8:15 when you attend some amazing sessions about The Most Successful, Longest Running 

Retention/Loyalty Program in History, and Skills Needed for Next Generation Content Marketing Teams. You take a break in between sessions to grab some lunch and do some more networking: You missed that guy from that company you want to know more about last night, and just saw him enter the lunch area…Winning! In the evening you head down to see the entertainment, great live music is an excellent way to end any day.

Wednesday morning gives you 15 extra precious minutes in bed before you have to be at the next session on Brandscaping, Andrew Davis is speaking, and you’ve already read his book! Also, maybe today is the day you’ll see Keynote speaker, Award-winning Actor and Producer, Kevin Spacey talk about producing content and branding for Netflix!

Thursday is Industry Labs day, and you’re attending two: Retail, and Professional Services. You’re excited to dive into the workshop to put what you’ve learned so far to good use!

Friday you head home to your team to share with them everything you’ve learned. The amount of tips and tricks you’ve learned for your business will ensure your team is prepared and equipped for the next year of business.

I don’t know about you, but I love an amazing event where I can network with peers and potential business client’s or partner’s, learn more about the industries I love, and learn to be more efficient and produce higher quality products/services. There’s always room for growth, so why not attend this years Content Marketing World?

For more information about the event, follow this link: Content Marketing World or Register here. To see a full list of keynote speakers click here.

Affiliate Management Days 2014 A Huge Success

It shocks me to this day that every affiliate manager on the planet is not flocking to Affiliate Management Days first chance they get. Some of the worlds biggest brands and most brilliant minds come together to share their expertise, network in an intimate setting and grow their skill sets together from an affiliate management and growth standpoint.

This was All Inclusive Marketing‘s fifth time speaking at AMDays. In my opinion, this was the best show yet, and if you’re an affiliate manager or marketing manager responsible for your affiliates, do not miss another show. 

The food was great, the people even better, and the content was bang on. I spent the first day with my clients from Norton (Symantec) filming industry veterans on the value and benefits of affiliate marketing for businesses today. The gold nuggets that came out of every corner were incredible and I was elevated by the potential this industry will bring to the world once the positive message of what we do, that no other channel can do, gets out.

On the second day I was able to listen to some fantastic sessions. I also spoke on the second day and had three of the greatest compliments of the last decade shortly after my presentation, all of which meant the world to me:

1. The Global Affiliate Manager of one of the world’s most loved brands (which rhymes with Snapple) told me he found my session extremely useful and that he took a lot out of it, only to follow up with an invitation to have my book, The Art of Performance Marketing (coming out later this year), set up in their bookstore.

2.  A Gentleman who works for one of the largest camera brands in the world told me he started reading my blog about two years ago, when he felt he already knew everything, and one particular post I put up made him start thinking about things so differently, he was able to change his mindset and learn exponentially more over the last two year because of a shift in perspective, which he got from this blog.

3. Todd Crawford, Co-Founder of Impact Radius, who I find one of the smartest people in our industry and who Keynoted at AMDays this year, told me he learned about 10 new things from my session. I thought he was being sarcastic but he assured me he was being entirely sincere. There were multiple pieces of information in my session he had never heard or thought of before. As someone I truly admire for his accomplishments and contributions to this industry, that meant a lot to me.

All in all, between the opportunity to meet phenomenally smart people who I learned more from, the relationships I built with key industry leaders and the opportunity to give back to truly push this industry forward made this event incredibly worthwhile.

If you’re like to see the notes from the show, check out hashtag #AMDays on twitter. Congrats to Geno Prussakov for putting on such an important and useful event.

If you are a merchant in the affiliate marketing space and you haven’t been to this show yet, this is a must attend event. It covers everything you need to be successful as a program manager and team leader. I hope to see you there!

Affiliate Summit West 2014 Best One To Date

Earlier this month All Inclusive Marketing attended Affiliate Summit West where we had some awesome successes and experiences. In fact, this past summit was our best one yet. Affiliate Summit is the largest and most comprehensive performance marketing conference in North America, with over 5400 attendees this year at the West show alone. Seven of AIM’s team members experienced the fun, education and networking opportunities Affiliate Summit brought together this year. Here are the major highlights from this year’s Affiliate Summit West for our team:

1. Pinnacle Awards: OPM / Agency of the Year

Photo Credit: Affiliate Summit

A major highlight for me personally was sitting amongst my friends and colleagues at the Pinnacle Awards, the most competitive and prestigious awards in North America within the Performance Marketing Industry, watching people I love and admire win awards. Two of our team members have already won awards in past years for “Affiliate Manager of the Year” and “Affiliate Marketing Advocate of the Year” and we were honored and thrilled to be listed in the top three Performance Marketing Agencies of the Year. Thank you you to Shawn, Missy and those who were rooting for us for that amazing opportunity! (more…)

How to Master Consumer Engagement – Webinar with Laura Patterson

I recently did a webinar with consumer engagement expert, Laura Patterson, of Vision Edge Marketing, a company that improves and proves the value of marketing (online and offline) through data, analytics, metrics and marketing processes.

Laura speaks at shows like the Online Marketing Summit, where we met early last year, and I was immediately captured by her passion and knowledge of sales processes and marketing measurement for B2B and B2C consultative type buyer behaviour.

She took the sales funnel model and turned it into a sales pipeline model that others would soon follow. From it, she teaches us that buyers are basically at different stages of the sales process but can jump back and forth between the state they are at quickly and linearly.

This pipeline and process can be used online and offline and through multiple channels and touch points at the same time. We created this webinar together to showcase what this buyer pipeline meant, and showcase how it works with different marketing channels such as search, social, mobile, affiliates, within shopping comparison engines and more.

Further, it gives specific examples of the types of touch points within each of those channels that engage with customers when they are at different stages of their buying cycle.

The first few minutes, presented by Laura, outline what you need to know about customer buying behaviours, what drives leads and what the six stages in the buying cycle are. I take the lead in the middle of the presentation to showcase the different marketing channels and tactics and how they work based on different buying behaviours and needs of the customers, and Laura finishes it off with some information about measurements, optimization and tracking.

It’s interesting to see this process in action and is especially obvious in larger ticket items such as cars, houses, boats, vacations and any other “consultative” type of sale.

I encourage you to watch the video all the way through as there are some great tid-bits that might spark some new ideas about how to understand your buyers, and how to engage with them at different touch points in different channels at different times in their sales process.

Start Your 2014 with Clear Purpose – Define Your Why!

 All Inclusive Marketing AIM DIGG Motto, Delight, Innovate, Grow, Giveback

2014 is here and to differentiate yourself and get ahead of the pack, its essential to know where you’re going and how to get there. In order to do that, every business needs to have  a clear purpose and goals, a reason for doing what they do that’s greater than themselves. It’s their “Why?”. One of the most useful TED Talks I’ve seen talked about what makes successful businesses, like Apple and Amazon, from the simple concept of starting with your “Why” first.

All Inclusive Marketing has the very clear purpose of pushing our industry forward and improving the lives of those around us. We do a ton of volunteer work for different boards, such as the Online Marketing Institute, The School of Internet Marketing and the Performance Marketing Association.

We work closely with our industry partners, clients, affiliates and team in order to ensure they are equipped with the proper tools and expertise they need to stay ahead and take a strong leadership role in what they do.

We contribute hours upon hours of content, videos, educational material, all for the  purpose of pushing this industry forward in the right direction and it falls entirely in line with our DIGG Motto: to Delight, Innovate, Grow and Give Back. Every decision we make in our business needs to fall into one or more of these categories. If it doesn’t, we don’t do it.

So in 2014, I ask you, what is your purpose? What is your WHY? What makes you and your company tick, the something that’s much bigger than just making money that fulfills what you do?

With that, and your eye on the ball of living and breathing your “why”, 2014 will be bound to hold great things for you too!

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