Following a disruptive 2017, Lee-Ann Johnstone founder of Affiliate Insider details to SBC readers why 2018 is a make-or-break year for affiliate marketing and its growing set of stakeholders.
Working with SBC Global, Johnstone has developed Affiliate Insider a joint-venture seeking to spearhead growth and development within industry affiliate marketing and player acquisition practices.
SBC: Hi Lee-Ann, you have been an industry executive in player acquisition for a number of years. Why have you decided to launch Affiliate Insider as your new venture?
Lee-Ann Johnstone: The market was ripe for a differentiated platform that would help provide all partners operating in the affiliate ecosystem a chance to network, advertise, collaborate and most importantly promote revenue growth. The affiliate channel is made up of more than just an affiliate and operator domain. Technology, strategy (marketing agencies), regulatory, legal and financial companies now represent a key position in the development of this channel and support its development and growth.
Affiliate Insider will seek to collaborate with all vested parties in the affiliate space to promote skills development, build collaborative partnerships , offer in-depth insight from experts operating in this space , report on best practice guidelines and regulatory updates that provide tangible insights for affiliates to implement to improve their businesses and provide a diversified platform to promote affiliate and acquisition marketing growth.
SBC: Put simply, 2017 has been a disruptive year for industry affiliate marketing. What has been your take on 2017 developments, and what should be prioritised by affiliates and stakeholders in 2018?
LAJ: The market is maturing fast. There have been a few defining changes in regulatory and advertising guidelines which have caused negative reactions to the channel as a whole. The affiliate marketing channel (as a digital medium) will need to evolve and may look different in the future as participating stakeholders consider their options and realign their acquisition strategies. Terms, Pricing and Operations will be scrutinised and may adapt to these changes over time. Smaller affiliates who are new to the market will need to upscale fast and find the right support to do so. Larger affiliates will look to commercialise their businesses or develop technologies that help cement their niche and invest in legitimising their businesses in order to one day sell.
Operators may be looking at the impact of how a monopoly on traffic sources from all the recent M&A in the affiliate channel might affect their budget lines and remap their existing digital marketing and acquisition strategies. Networks and technology suppliers will seek to develop solutions for better policing of affiliate sites and provide more in-depth marketing data in relation to traffic sources and values in real time. Across all areas, a focus on business and marketing skills development should be a massive focus to support additional revenue growth in this channel.
SBC: Furthermore, in 2017 we have seen significant M&A in the affiliate sector. Is affiliate marketing becoming the domain of major networks, what type of impact will M&A have on innovation and marketing practices?
LAJ: Nobody is going to want a monopoly of traffic sources for affiliation.
The most positive result of the growing M&A in the affiliate channel has resulted in a focus on self-compliance by affiliates. Reason being – they want to ensure their businesses are prepared for a potential future sale. This is great for operators as it will ensure programme and advertising compliance in the process. Clever operators and those early adopters who want to engage to grow their affiliate programmes will invest in programmes offering training and development as well as look to provide mainstream business coaching support to help these small and mid-tier affiliates to really grow.
The long tail will become just as important as the 80/20 rule which has previously governed affiliate management principles so far. Smaller affiliates will get innovative, they’ll be looking to carve out a clear niche either by answering a consumer problem or creating innovative technology applications that can acquire and convert value customers to operator sites.
SBC: What defined role do affiliates have to play in industry Social Responsibility? Are affiliate failures, simply due to rogue players, or does the nature of industry affiliate marketing lead to conflict?
LAJ: Social Responsibility is split fairly down the middle by all stakeholders as both have an equal part to play in customer acquisition and marketing best practices.
Operators have an onus to ensure their marketing literature is always updated, their staff are trained and knowledgeable on all industry best practice guides and regulations to operate efficiently in this symbiotic relationship.
Affiliates have an onus to ensure they understand exactly what they can and can’t promote under the regulatory codes. They too have to ensure their staff are adequately informed about the rules and regulations of various programme terms and industry guidelines.
Those that don’t follow these rulings or want to engage to develop best practices to overcome these issues within their businesses, should reconsider their acquisition strategies and business values and stop promoting recklessly to avoid costly mistakes and rogue impacts on the channel as a whole.
SBC: From an executive perspective, do you feel that industry leadership and wider stakeholders understand current affiliate marketing operations and practices? Are the issues witnessed between affiliate-operator-leadership driven by a lack of clarity and transparency?
LAJ: At the moment I think that there is a general uncertainty in the marketplace about what the guidelines are, and who should be looking at improving them. Nobody quite knows how to manage this from operator, network and affiliate perspectives. This is happening within the marketing channel as a whole, and its not specific to the iGaming/betting sector.
Helen Southgate – Chair of the IAB Affiliate council recently wrote an open letter to the affiliate industry asking how we could all play a part in making the channel as a digital medium better.
There has to be a deep emphasis on education, creating better standards, improving processes and revamping guidelines. This would lead to better transparency and higher levels of growth which is beneficial to all stakeholders. The trick is to do just make a start. Govern what you do, and worry not about others. Ensure your relationships are watertight and that your own staff and marketing processes are compliant. Until there is a general consensus in the marketplace of how to evolve the channel to overcome these challenges this is a good place to start.
SBC: From your experience, how would you implement a balanced operational framework between affiliates and operators. Can this ever be achieved, or are all stakeholders simply too vested in their own interests?
LAJ: I believe the time is coming when we will all have to come together to build a balanced operational framework and there are a few stakeholders looking at how we could do this. Tom Galanis for one has been investigating the IGAA as a method to help promote best practice and compliance guidance for affiliates. Operators are investing more in training and development of staff and their affiliates (via educational events) to ensure that relations can run smooth and costly fines are avoided. Affiliates are self-regulating by creating their own compliance policies (www.whichbingo.com) for operators to see exactly how they operate and what they do to deliver traffic and quality business. Everyone seems to be making an effort to do their part and hopefully, as a collective whole we will be called to create a balance that is for the benefit of all.
SBC: You will be presenting the ‘Affiliate Insider Bootcamp’ alongside the BOFCON 2018 conference, what do you want delegates to take away from this event?
LAJ: The bootcamp, aims in delivering digital insight and knowledge share to sports betting affiliates specifically who want to growth hack their business and establish a greater market share in 2018. Our speakers will be giving tangible insights on how to grow social communities, create content that converts and will stimulate traffic growth, create strategies to improve SEO and Link Building activities and consider emerging markets and technologies that will help promote their own commercial growth.
This event will deliver a depth of content that will seek to provide active business coaching support to affiliates in attendance. Operators supporting and participating in this event will be able to network and meet affiliates who are serious about their businesses and looking to create better growth opportunities to grow their brands. There’ll be plenty to learn, great opportunities to network and collaborate to stimulate business growth as well as skills development. It’s an opportunity for those in the sports betting market – that just shouldn’t be missed.
Lee-Ann Johnstone – Founder – Affiliate Insider
If you want to be a part of our Affiliate Insider Bootcamp – contact: [email protected] for more information. If you’re an affiliate and want to claim your FREE ticket – register at:http://sbcevents.com/aibootcamp/