In Geno Prussakov’s most recent book, “Affiliate Program Management: An Hour a Day”, the author speaks authoritatively on affiliate marketing management, from planning to optimizing results. Prussakov was kind enough to enter the following discussion on intersecting marketing issues.One of the world’s most respected authorities on digital marketing, Geno Prussakov is an author, affiliate marketing expert, online marketing consultant, award winning blogger, international speaker, founder of the highly regarded AM Navigator affiliate management agency, and the mastermind behind Affiliate Management Days conference. Born in Moldova, Prussakov graduated the State University there, studied philosophy at Oxford, international relations at Cambridge, and is currently pursuing his doctorate.
I think it’s fair to say Geno wears a lot of hats very well. I’m sure you will glean a lot from our brief Q & A below.
Q – Can you comment briefly on what some might call “sales reactive” tweeting, where businesses offer relevant and timely offers?
A – I’m not entirely sure what you put into the phrase, but when it comes to Social Media very few brands can still enjoy the luxury of reactive sales – or sitting back and waiting for the customer to come to you (either taking advantage of a promo you’ve pushed via Twitter of Facebook, or reacting to some other SM campaign of yours). When we’re talking new customer acquisition, the approach has got to be proactive. You want to engage the prospect by catering to their immediate or future needs, building bridges for the future sale. A classic example of such proactive selling via Social revealed itself just last week when a company that sells ground transportation to and from airports reached out to me in reply to a Tweet about my upcoming travel. You may read more about it here, but it is this principle – of creating conversations around what matters to your target audience – that many have been finding to be one of the most effective ones in selling via Social Media.
Q – With the holidays coming up Geno, can you elaborate on the so called “Last Minute Secrets” Bryan Eisenberg discussed with you about recently?
A – Absolutely! In his webinar, and follow-up e-book Bryan included two of the affiliate management tips I suggested:
(1) Equip Affiliates with 2 Calendars: a planning calendar (which informs them of the exact dates when to expect specific creatives, tools, landing pages, and promos to be made available), and a shipping calendar (an integral marketing tool for every merchant that sells physical goods)
(2) Work out a Post-Holiday Plan: a plan on what you are going to market through affiliates once a specific holiday is over, and how exactly you’re going to do it (offering deeper discounts, “requalifying” your products to work/fit for the next holiday, etc)
I don’t know if you’ve heard, but shortly after the release of the above-quoted e-book, I participated on another webinar on the topic, focusing on affiliate marketing specifically. In addition to the above two tips, in the newer webinar I suggested that advertisers (or merchants with affiliate programs) also focus on the following five things:
(1) Design Holiday Affiliate Campaigns remembering such key constituents as (a) holiday-themed affiliate creatives, (b) custom landing page, and (c) compelling CTAs on both;
(2) Run Holiday-Specific Promotions helping affiliates of all types to increase conversions;
(4) Employ Dynamic Creatives so that every time you update the creative on your end, the new/updated one appears on the affiliate site(s) without any additional effort on the affiliate’s part;
(5) Maintain Healthy Communication (a big part of which, during holidays, is advance notifications) without which all of the above-mentioned efforts will be nearly useless.
Q – I was looking at reactions to a recent tweet of yours about marketing commissions. As in every business, performance is expected, but in these dynamic times everyone seems to be squeezing everyone else along the food chain over conversions and ROI. My question is, “why should performance based marketing spend be immune from budget cutting?”
A – Affiliate marketing has historically been known as “performance marketing”, meaning to designate relationships in which affiliates market merchants, getting compensated only when pre-defined performance happens. For example, you as an advertiser are willing to pay affiliate 8% of every order they refer to you. Of course, much depends on the type of affiliate activity that the order results from, but provided they complied with your affiliate program’s rules and policies, and referred the type of customer you’re looking for, you are receiving incremental business which shouldn’t be tied to budgets. Of course, there are situations when due to multiple touchpoints (which also encompass your own marketing efforts) the affiliate’s role in conversion is not as exclusive as when they’d market to their own database, but even in multi-touchpoint contexts, you want to (a) do your math in advance, not having to change it on the go, and (b) if a change in payouts must happen, communicate it in as much detail and with as much empathy as possible. The last thing you want to happen is to look like you’re taking advantage of your affiliates’ efforts.
Speaking of the situation the tweet was describing, I, actually, put together a follow-up blog post on it, where I described my problems with that particular incident of an unexpected commission drop.
Q – In a recent article on AM Navigator you talk about affiliate marketing ops across the changing online landscape, more specifically how the so called “little guy” can compete across social, mobile, and geo-centric marketing channels. My question is, “how well prepped are businesses to optimize across mobile in particular, this holiday season?”
A – Not too long ago Google commissioned a research the findings of which answer your question. Out of over one thousand US adult smartphone Internet users, three-quarters prefer mobile-friendly websites. However, “96% of consumers say they’ve encountered sites that were clearly not designed for mobile devices.” Smart merchants (and affiliates!) know this, and are already tapping into the channel. The opportunity, however, is still tremendous.
Q – Having said that Geno, how open is the playing field for mobile marketing? What innovations will be seen in the near term?
A – The field is wide open; and I see that in certain categories affiliates are, actually, performing better than merchants themselves. Speaking of innovations, serving on the judging panel for Performance Marketing Awards, I see some really cool mobile-related innovations that affiliates come up with every year. Most of the really impressive ones that I have seen have been developed on the intersection of mobile and local – both on mobile apps, and in mobile-optimized websites. I think there’s still a lot of room for developments that focus on bridging the gap between the online/mobile and the offline.
Q – In an article here on SEJ last year, you talk about the “symmetry” of communication, something I have personally been focused on. Having consulted many businesses, do you think the concept of “two-way symmetric communications” will take a long time for the majority of businesses to understand, even adopt?
A – Much depends on the flexibility of the business, which, as experience shows, is frequently tied to its size and complexities of organizational structure. I’ve been seeing that smaller businesses are more open to changes and happier to turn their communication channels into two-way symmetric ones, while larger ones often take longer to implement such strategy. Also, I have been finding out that the same company that is very much symmetric in its phone communication with customers may be absolutely asymmetric in how they use Social Media. I’m sure this will gradually change for the better, though. After all, when your competitor is reaping the fruit of healthy communication with current and prospective customers, you either learn to do the same (or, preferably, better), or have your share of the pie shrink.
Q – Is what Chris Brogan told readers about Twitter campaigns the other day, his terms “ensuring frequent chances to buy” (basically getting potentials to sign up), isn’t the rather mercenary tone of that message flying in the face of the symmetry you speak of?
A – Actually, I almost fully share the distribution of value assigned to each platform by Chris in the interview you’re referring to (great job on it, both of you!); and I do not see any contradiction between symmetric communication and actively harvesting leads at the same time. It doesn’t have to be an “either… or…” situation, but can easily be a “both… and…” scenario. The “symmetry” always implies openness to hear (not only listen; or worse yet, just broadcast your message) and willingness to change/improve based on what you learn from the public. There’s nothing negative in “ensuring frequent chances to buy” as long as it’s handled gently and considerately. Isn’t this what we’re ultimately after? Well… yes, creating memories, putting smiles on people’s faces, blowing their minds with unforgettable experiences… all of these things are great. But unless we’re talking pure non-profit charity or philanthropy, you are in business to get paid, and there’s nothing venal about the desire to sell more stuff and do it more often.
Just as Geno’s latest book suggests, anyone who’s anyone in online retail has an affiliate marketing program, which allows them to tap into all other marketing channels structuring relationships with respective marketers via performance-based models. Without sounding like a Geno Prussakov chief evangelist, readers do not have to take his or my word for statistics or trend opinions; for Prussakov’s part, his marketing ideologies and methods are widely used by marketers worldwide, while his books are being recommended in numerous MBA courses.
All this said, one thing entrepreneurs and budding marketing experts can take away here is – “affiliate marketing is not just here to stay, it’s a thriving, growing, effective way to land conversions and revenue.” Readers who wish to connect with Geno, he is very active @ePrussakov