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.

Carolyn Kmet (formerly of Groupon) Joins All Inclusive Marketing as New VP of Performance Marketing

Carolyn Tang Kmet - VP of Performance Marketing for AIMI couldn’t be more thrilled to announce that Carolyn Tang Kmet is joining All Inclusive Marketing as our new VP of Performance Marketing starting October 15, 2012!

Carolyn and I have been friends for a few years, and she is one of the people who has stood out as an industry star since the beginning.

Here’s a short bio of Carolyn’s work over the last few years.

Carolyn Tang Kmet brings over 13 years of performance marketing expertise to All Inclusive Marketing. Prior to joining the team, Carolyn was the affiliate marketing director for Groupon. In this role, she was honored with the Affiliate Summit Pinnacle Award for Affiliate Manager of the Year 2010, and the New Advertiser of the Year 2011 award from Commission Junction. Prior to joining Groupon, Kmet led the client services team at ShareASale.com, a Chicago-based affiliate network. Kmet has also managed affiliate programs at Orbitz, CollectiblesToday.com and MyPoints.com. She is an adjunct lecturer at the Loyola University of Chicago, where she teaches both undergraduate and MBA level e-marketing courses. Kmet earned a MBA from Loyola University Chicago, a MSJ in Journalism from Northwestern University and a Bachelor of Arts degree from University of California, Berkeley.

Carolyn is joining AIM with the purpose of helping our team and company grow through customer retention and seamless operations. She will be helping us build systems and tools to ensure the ongoing success of every program we manage, an enjoyable and prosperous experience for our affiliate partners and a happy and evolving management team.

We are so thrilled to have her and look forward to an incredible year ahead of us! Carolyn, welcome to the team!

Share-A-Sale’s New Leap Frog Feature Good News for Merchants and Affiliates

shareasale's leap frog feature - share-a-saleA little insider information allowed me a sneak peak at Share-A-Sale’s new feature they call “Leap Frogging” which every merchant in Share-A-Sale needs to know about. This is great news for both merchants and affiliates for the reasons described below.

In a nutshell, merchants can now submit tickets to have custom tracking set up that will credit affiliates differently according to different set rules which will significantly help with attribution.

Some of the rules created around the Leap Frog feature could include time on affiliate site, order of clicks, and so on. The “leap frog” affiliate is the one that sends traffic to a merchant first and “leap frogs” over another affiliate who would otherwise get credit for getting the last click.  This makes crediting affiliates much more fair.

Because of this feature, commissions can now either go to the first affiliate or be split accordingly – say 20% of the sale goes to a coupon affiliate who got the last click and 80% goes to the content affiliate who sent the traffic in the first place, as an example.

The features is still very new and Share-a-sale is slowly rolling it out, however they are doing it for a few companies already and it seems to be working beautifully.

 

Why This is Good News for Affiliates

If you’re a blogger, content site, PPC affiliate and the like, you’re probably used to having some of the high value traffic you send to a merchant be “stolen” or otherwise credited to another affiliate who got the last click, such as a coupon site or someone using a toolbar. With this new feature, you can still get full credited for your hard work if not share commissions according to the merchant’s attribution design. This means a lot more sales for you!

 

Why This is Good News for Merchants

Because of the last click model that’s been the norm since the beginning, and since online shoppers have changed, many affiliates who are driving high value incremental sales are not being credited accordingly. This is because shoppers often check around before they make a buying decision and possibly even end up on a coupon site half way through checkout, giving credit to the coupon affiliate instead of the affiliate who sent the traffic in the first place. This leaves your best affiliates, the ones who are driving the highest value referrals in the first place, high and dry.

Too many merchants are giving full credit to the wrong affiliates, especially when the affiliate marketing strategy is to drive new customer aquisition. As a result, many merchants rely on coupon and daily deal sites to drive the bulk of their sales. This prevents many programs from effectively growing their sales because the higher value affiliates who are sending the first click are leaving programs they cannot earn from.

With this new feature, you can now keep your best preforming affiliates happy by paying on the first click or by splitting commissions instead of always crediting the last click. This will keep your program growing properly while keeping your highest value affiliates active!

 

The steps for setting the Leap Frog feature up in Share-A-Sale are: 

  1. Determine the rules for custom tracking
  2. Determine the commission split
  3. Submit request to SAS through a ticket

 

That’s it! You’re now on your way to a healthier, happier program!

Marissa Mayer Yahoo’s New CEO on Finding Balance

Marissa Mayer Yahoo CEOI never heard of Marissa Mayer until yesterday when she was announced Yahoo’s new CEO. Intrigued by her picture – being young, pretty and feminine – I started to read more about her and watch some of her interviews. What I find interesting and incredibly inspiring about Marissa is how much she has accomplished at such a young age.

According to Celebrity North, Marissa’s net worth is $300 million. That’s not bad for someone who’s still three years away from turning 40. As one of Google’s first employees and their first female engineer, she has contributed to over 100 features google has offered. She is incredibly intelligent being a tech geek and an engineer, but more importantly she is down to earth and appreciates the people she works with.

Having accomplished so much in such a short time, it boggles my mind how hard she must have worked to get her engineering degree, compete against men in a highly male dominated space when she first entered, then worked her way up the corporate ladder in two of the world’s most recognized brands.

But despite the incredible work she’s done and the dedication it must have taken to get her there, she understands that balance and not resenting your work is the most important element to a balanced work life. Burn out is a dangerous thing and she appreciates that people have different reasons for living and different ways for dealing with life balance.

Here’s are her thoughts on finding a proper work balance in life.

I obviously don’t know Marissa personally, but I admire what she has accomplished is such a short time and what she represents for women. To me she tells the world that despite age, gender or origin, you have opportunity to accomplish whatever you want if you can be focused, determined and find the needed balance to get the job done.

 

17 Reasons Internet Marketing Is In Trouble

I can’t tell you how often I hear how shady, scummy, and overall filled with unethical, sleazy people the affiliate marketing world

has. Personally, it drives me crazy. There are a TON of awesome people in this industry – thousands of them. Possibly HUNDREDS of thousands of them, yet somehow the world still thinks we’re a bunch of criminals.

An anonymous reporter recently put a request out to find more information about the internet marketing space. I sent them a letter to address their question. Here was the original post:

 

Summary: Are All Internet Marketers Scam Artists?

Category: High Tech

Email: query-29rx@helpareporter.net 

Media Outlet: Anonymous

Deadline: 7:00 PM EST – 12 July

Query:

I’ve been reading the Salty Droid with a great deal of interest, and have been intrigued by his claim that “you can’t make money online.” The site’s founder was a prime source in a video and commentary by the Verge taking down the entire Internet marketing segment as being a syndicate of scam artists.

I want to kick the tires a bit harder on the Verge’s commentary and do some actual reporting to test the claims. Are there legit Internet Marketers and Affiliate Marketers online? What should content providers know and what questions should they ask before signing on or, even more importantly, entering payment info?

Requirements:

This is for a leading industry Website with high traffic levels. I am looking for expert commentary and data for a serious,
investigative piece, not product pitches. Thanks.

Before I even go into my list of reasons why we have a bad rap – PLEASE SEND THIS REPORTER A MESSAGE WITH THE TRUTH THAT LEGITIMATE INTERNET MARKETERS ARE OUT THERE AND SHARE YOUR STORY!

 

Anyway here are 17 reasons I think the world has a horrible misconception about our entire industry. If you have some to add, please do!

 

1. No Formal Education

It seems when there is no formal education, training or reputable organization backing an industry people think it’s not a legitimate profession. There are no universities or colleges (that I’m aware of) that have top level degrees or recognized designations in affiliate management or social media, for example, that people can study for two – four years like other recognized professions that give them the respect they deserve. I predict that over the next few years this will change.

 

2.  Is it Legal?

When I say “affiliate marketing” the VAST majority of people I speak to don’t have a clue what I’m talking about. One of our account managers’ mothers asked if what she does for a living is legal!  We still have a long way to go to bring awareness that people who work online are legitimate business owners and are not breaking the law by working on the internet. Part of this issue might be from lack of #1.

 

3. No Really, Is it Legal?

Because “internet law” is so new in itself there is so much grey space  in the online landscape it’s still like the wild wild west out there. With better regulations, attorneys who understand the landscape and online business owners who better understand the legal issues surrounding the internet, we will start to become taken more seriously by the rest of the world. Right now, no one really knows who regulates behaviour and dishing out consequences online, so everyone just does what they want.

Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer and legal issues are not my strong suit – so please do your own research in this regard.  If you are or know of a good internet attorney, please let us know so we can contact you.

 

4. Industry Lingo

When an industry has it’s own lingo and that language gets thrown around by different people who don’t fully understand it, the meaning of those terms becomes skewed. People are afraid of what they don’t understand, and franking most of the people I speak to – even in the industry – either don’t use the right terms or don’t understand them. SEM, SEO, PPC, CPA, CPL, CPS, EPC, ROAS, MLM, Click Fraud, Trademark Bidding, Direct Linking, Back Links, Widgets, Datafeed and Tagging are just a few examples of terms people in the industry use a lot, but others don’t have a clue what they mean. And because there are so many industry specific terms and so many novice people in the space (which is understandable since it’s growing so rapidly and there is no formal training) people just don’t get it.

 

5. Spam

All our favourite thing. That tasty meat that makes us cringe is about as appealing as when people bombard and harass you in your personal space online. Somehow that seems like an oxymoron, but seriously – I don’t want another mass email to 486 people to my Facebook inbox. I don’t want my personal email passed around because I donated something once and now 50 charities suddenly know who I am and want my money too. There are a ton of ways we spam and are spammed and people always attribute it to internet marketers.

 

6. Cheesy Aliases

SexKitten69, PimpDaddy11, FuckHead09 – sounds very professional right? Well if I’m someone outside of the industry seeing aliases like that, I’m not going to be impressed or trust you. Or the website, forum or social network you’re on either.

 

7. Stolen Personal Info

How many times have you ordered something online and wondered if your personal info (name, home address, credit card info) is safe. I know I have. I won’t buy from a site that looks shady and lacks authentic security seals. I know several people who’ve been ripped off buying something online – or have had their personal info used to register for things they had nothing to do about. No wonder people are scared give their info. Everyone knows someone with a similar story.

 

8. Adware, Spyware and Toolbars

Between all the popups, popovers, warnings and download requests how is anyone supposed to trust anything these days? In the affiliate marketing space these things are used to give unfair advantage over other affiliates and even the merchants themselves. These in-your-face (and sometimes under-the-radar) requests are not only annoying but worrisome. Even more so when people don’t know what they mean or if they should accept them or not. How do we (or any regular user) know which ones are legitimate or not. Downloading tools to help us determine this only makes us all the more paranoid.

 

9. Turning a Bind Eye

This one drives me nuts. When I was 16 years old I fainted on the sky train on my way to work. I was by myself during rush hour and woke up three stations later with people walking over my body to get on and off the train. Why is it people insist they can’t see something happening? Or they pretend it’s ok? Or they expect someone else to do something about it? I’m not one to just sit around hoping someone else is going to do something. I know from experience they probably are not. Therefore it’s up to you and me to stand up and say something when we see something that’s not right. For us, it’s just a matter of knowing who to say something to which is probably the hard part in the online space. Again, this could be a result of #1, #2 and #3.

 

10. No Accountability

Similar to turning a blind eye, I find people just don’t take responsibility for their actions. It’s so easy to point the figure at someone else, especially when public scrutiny is a real possibility in the online space and of course no one wants to be embarrassed. But at the same time how can we improve if we don’t properly reflect on how to improve. If we just continue ignore the things we need to change then this industry isn’t going to get any better.

 

11.  Promised Overnight Success!

“Get rich quick! Make a million dollars with my easy three point system! Buy this one time solution and earn $100,000 within 3 days!” These people drive me nuts. Anyone who’s been in the space long enough knows there is no such thing as a get rich quick scheme. There is just a scheme. Internet marketing takes patience, determination, skill, proper business strategy, focus and often times a specialization. It also takes time. Nothing is quick, easy or free. We have to work for it just as hard as any other industry, if not harder.

 

12. Cheap Tricks

Cookie stuffing, giant red flashy banners, popovers (add adware, spyware, malware and toolbars to this list) and a slew of other things people do to have an easy advantage over others is one major reason people don’t like internet marketers, especially in the affiliate marketing space.

 

13. Pornography, Gambling and other “Questionable” Booming Industries

I’m not one to judge a person’s pastimes but there are some who will argue the ethics of the industries in the online space. Seeing as pornography and gaming are two of the most profitable and popular industries online today, I can see how some would question decency of the internet overall and the sites that might be exposed to eyes that preferably wouldn’t see them. Parents have to put in a ton of effort to protect their children from sites like these, which makes them angry that they have to put that effort in at all – then they worry that their child will still be exposed to it somehow anyway.

 

14. Offensive and Hateful Material

Freedom of speech allows us to say whatever we like. Unfortunately some of that speech is incredibly harmful. Even decent websites and social networks that allow commenting who do not monitor regularly could be victim to such hurtful content.

 

15. Technologies People Don’t Understand

Again this goes back to people are afraid of what they do not understand. As technology advances throughout multiple channels (search, mobile, social, etc) more technologies are introduced that many people judge or fear fall into one of the categories listed above. Because technology advances so quickly it’s almost impossible for one person to keep up with all the changes so instead of understanding it, everyone simply becomes skeptical and untrusting until proven otherwise.

 

16. Completely Unpredictable

No one knows what to expect online. It’s completely unpredictable and everyone seems to be responsive and reactive rather than proactive and controlled. How can you be though when everything changes by the millisecond? In the time you took to read this, the ENTIRE online landscape changed and you could spend the next year reading to catch up to the last 10 minutes – if you never slept, ate or did anything else for 365 days straight.

 

17. All Marketers are Liars

Internet marketers already have a hard job because so many people think all marketers are liars. In some cases, yes, they are. They will make ups stories, names, fake product reviews and hide who they really are in order to make a few bucks. But that’s not everyone – and good marketers know to tell good stories based on facts without having to do this. Not all marketers are liars. The best marketers are just good story tellers who touch the minds, hearts and souls of those they wish to reach.

What are your thoughts on all this? What do you think are other issues that are causing us to have such a bad rap and how do you think we can solve the misconception that all internet marketers are scam artists?

I’m going to continue to fight for a better name in the industry. What are your ideas to help improve the image of our space?

Performance Horizon Group Wins ‘Best New Entrant’ at 2012 Performance Marketing Awards

Performance Horizon Group wins at 2012 Performance Marketing AwardsA few weeks ago I wrote a post called  “What is ExactView Affiliate Management Tracking Technology?” that outlined the incredible new technology of Performance Horizon Group and how it might change how merchants and internet retailers manage their online marketing programs.

A press release recently released explains how and why Performance Horizon Group’s advanced affiliate management tracking technology just won this year’s “Best New Entrant” at the 2012 Performance Marketing Awards.

New York, NY, May 23, 2012 – Performance Horizon Group (PHG), a leading provider of performance marketing technology, secured a win for ‘Best New Entrant’ at the 2012 annual Performance Marketing Awards at the Grosvernor House Hotel in London on May 15, 2012.

In its sixth year, the affiliates4u Performance Marketing Awards showcase companies and individuals for their achievements and contributions to the performance marketing industry. The ‘Best New Entrant’ award was open to individuals and companies who entered (or re-entered) the performance marketing sector in the past year and made an immediate and significant industry impact.

This year’s 22 judges, including executives from Yahoo and American Express, recognized PHG as ‘Best New Entrant’ out of five shortlisted companies based on innovation, scalability, market disruption and commercial opportunity size. Judges commented that PHG’s ExactView product had the potential to “overhaul” the industry.

Since PHG launched ExactView, its platform that provides brands with a fully customized white-label solution to manage large partners globally on a performance basis, the company has experienced 20 percent month-over-month revenue growth (1000 percent in 2011) grew its staff to 25 in the U.S. and U.K. and serves 35 brand name clients in 24 countries.

Commenting on PHG’s award, CEO Malcolm Cowley remarked: “Major brands today tell us they require performance marketing technology that offers real-time access to centralized data, scalability, flexibility, reliability and enterprise-level local technical support and payment solutions at a global level.”

Cowley added: “This award reflects our ongoing commitment to position PHG as a company that meets these needs and helps brands through this transitional period to plan for growth and long-term success in performance marketing related channels.”

 

About Performance Horizon Group

Performance Horizon Group (PHG) is disrupting the multi-billion dollar performance marketing space with its patent pending global technology. The company’s flagship product, ExactView, is a leading platform for brands and their agencies to manage key revenue, drive relationships in-house, make critical decisions through data analysis and limit risk across their web, social and mobile strategies. ExactView’s tracking, analytics and management tools offer customers the needed platform to increase sales and reduce costs across multiple digital media channels, including affiliate marketing and lead generation. With offices in the U.K. and U.S., PHG is currently monitoring sales and making payments for brands in 24 countries. For further information visit please visit www.performancehorizon.com or follow us @tweetphg.

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