December 28, 2014

Todd Crawford on Opportunities in Affiliate Marketing

Meet Todd Crawford, an affiliate marketing veteran, Co-Founder of Impact Radius, and former VP of sales and business development at oneNetworkDirect. Todd also contributed to the founding team at Commission Junction in 1998, and worked at the affiliate network for more than seven years. At Affiliate Management Days 2013, Todd will be participating in a keynote panel on the role of the affiliate network.

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affiliate marketingQuestion: If you were to emphasize one important issue that every affiliate manager should be paying more attention to, what would it be and why?

Todd Crawford: Diversifying your publisher base.  Almost every advertiser I talk to has 10-15 publishers that are driving 90%+ of their results.  Many of these top publishers have similar business models.  A healthy program needs to be as diversified as possible, leveraging multiple types of publishers.

Dig into the mid-tier publishers and segment them to determine alternative opportunities.  Have a goal of balancing your publisher base so the top 10-15 are only 50%-70% of your results.  It’s hard work but it makes for a healthier, stronger channel.

Question: What do you see as the main areas of opportunity for affiliate marketers in 2013 – 2014?

Todd Crawford: I think the single biggest opportunity is utilizing better tracking, data and analytics.  From what I am seeing and hearing, legacy solutions aren’t providing the level of data advertisers need to manage their marketing channels.  There are so many more data points that need to be analyzed in order to understand the value of the affiliate channel and the individual publishers.

I know the term “big data” gets thrown around a lot, but more and more companies are analyzing more data points and affiliate managers need to have access to similar data.  Otherwise they run the risk of not being able to defend or champion their channel or even worse, not being able to answer questions raised by management.

Question: It isn’t unusual to hear that since affiliates operate in the mix with other marketing channels that merchants use (paid search, retargeting, social, etc.), with this multi-touchpoint eCommerce, the last-click attribution model is no longer an optimal one. What do you recommend?

Todd Crawford: We need to remember there is a difference between modeling data and firing pixels.  I think last click is still vital for actual tracking and de-duplication across channels, but that attribution analysis is becoming critical for understanding the role and value of media as well and the true costs.

Don’t confuse tracking and pixel firing logic with attribution modeling – they are two very different things. Once you understand the overall contribution of affiliates, you can then start changing your payout rates to be better aligned with the value of those partners.

For example, many content sites play a role higher up in the funnel and consequently don’t get credit for as many last clicks sales.  You may want to increase their payout rate or give them a spot bonus to compensate them for their efforts earlier in the buying cycle.

Question: As co-founder of an international marketing technologies company, what do you view as the main area affiliates can truly help online merchants, adding value to the pre-sale process?  

Todd Crawford: Personally, I am influenced by in-depth reviews. Especially videos when considering purchases.  If it works on me, I imagine it works on quite a few other people.

Introduce your visitors to unique information and opportunities that they can’t get from other sites.  This isn’t easy, but it builds sustainable traffic and long-term value for your website(s) and advertisers.

Question: If you were to leave online advertisers, merchants and affiliate managers with one piece of advice, what would it be? 

Todd Crawford: Having personal KPIs (key performance indicators) so they can measure their progress towards weekly, monthly and quarterly goals.  If your company doesn’t help create these KPIs, you can still create your own.  Look at the high-level objectives for your department and company overall and develop KPIs that help you track your contribution towards achieving those goals.

Without KPIs in place, you often end up showing up for work everyday doing the same things without understanding which efforts will move the needle and help you hit your goals.  A simple example is talking to 10 new affiliates each day to recruit them into your program(s).  This means you may need to actually call 50 to get 10 on the phone. Leaving voice messages doesn’t count.

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Visit the website for the Affiliate Management Days Conference.  See the rest of the interview series here.

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Geno Prussakov


Geno Prussakov Geno Prussakov is the Founder & Chair of Affiliate Management Days and the CEO & founder of AM Navigator LLC. As an award-winning affiliate marketing expert, he has contributed to the online marketing success of such top brands as Forbes, Nokia, Hallmark, Warner Music, Skype, Forex Club, and hundreds of small businesses.

One Reaction

  1. Last click attribution makes the most sense in the most cases for affiliate payouts. The reality is that the preceding marketing attempts failed, and the last click delivered. Would you pay the realtor that couldn’t sell your house a portion of the commission when the new realtor sells it? Reward the bad salesmen that couldn’t close an account by taking part of the commission away from the one that did?

    Algorithmic attribution is an academic concept being sold as a better way to determine where sales actually come from. But applied to affiliate sales, it’s really just a way to take money out of the hands of the end point marketer and give it to the big banner networks. The affiliate delivers clicks where they weren’t being delivered or maintains users focus on your site. Re-apportioning that ad spend to something that didn’t perform makes little sense.

    Would that same affiliate be credited if the banner ad made the sale after his click failed to convert? Reduce those payouts at your own peril. The last-click networks will end up ruling the long-tail market.

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