How to Pick the Right Influencer(s):

Our world has changed drastically. Brands would spend hundreds of thousands, even millions to be ‘endorsed’ by celebrities.  After every news show, you can see that a specific brand is featured because the host was wearing that suit or dress.

Most people under 29 don’t pay for cable. In fact, many are watching TV on their laptop, or device and they do it on demand. Commercials are becoming less effective and BRANDS NEED TO ADJUST.

One buzz word we hear regularly is ‘influencer’ marketing. Brands want to associate with a bunch of influencers because consumers trust that influencer’s judgement.  Consumers are less aware of the financial benefits these influencers have when promoting a brand.

So how do you know which influencers are good or not?  Since there is no straight forward answer, the approach should be taken with caution. 

We interact with hundreds of influencers and for every 50 that approach us about a brand, only 1 would actually deliver on what they promise. Is it worth the effort?  The answer is yes, and here’s why.

For the 1 time that an influencer succeeds in the goals we set, they succeed way beyond our expectations. We walk into the relationship saying that if we come out even then it’s worth the effort to test them. Afterwards, we work with them on optimization techniques, adjusting our messaging to their audience and creating specific co-branded landing pages to improve the performance.

Though we have to be careful on the other 49 influencers that may mean well and have every intention of delivering on their end of the agreement but just can’t get the results we need.  being careful is giving product instead of cash, having a ‘loan’ agreement with them instead of giving them the product and making them pay a fee to loan and have it refunded when they return it, etc.  Doing such will require you to be very upfront with them about why you need to take the steps that you are taking.

This holiday season, many brands are going heavy on influencer marketing. Some will yield results but most will not. It’s important to understand that if this a direct marketing initiatives, you’re better of using those funds in other places.


Is Amazon Playing Fair? What Do You Think!

Amazon is by far one of the most powerful online retailers out there. If you walk the streets of NYC and see UPS or Fedex drivers delivering boxes, it’s very unusual NOT to see an Amazon branded box in the mix.

Retailers across the country have been struggling with ‘showrooming’ where consumers would walk into a Best Buy or some other big box retailer, whip out their phones and do a price comparison on Amazon for the same product.  This has definitely fueled Amazon’s growth.

So this is exactly where Amazon is protecting itself after Jeff Bezos accidentally bought Whole Foods using the Amazon Echo (joking).  Amazon already knows that in order to succeed at retail, they need to give customers peace of mind that their dollar is getting the most value. 

Though I wouldn’t call it fair though I also would believe that there are very creative developers out there who will figure out how to get around this patent since patents are processes and not result oriented.

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Affiliate Marketing - Is it Right For YOUR Business?

As I’ve been saying and leading for the past 10 years, affiliate marketing is a great complement to your digital marketing strategy.  If grown and managed properly, it can generate 20% of your overall revenue at a fraction of the costs of CPCs.

To build a program from scratch or to take an existing struggling program and turn it around are both challenging. The affiliate market has been synonymous with coupons and discounts which defines it, though they are only a part of the entire picture.

Yes, there are many coupon sites out there and yes, there is an argument about if you were going to make those sales anyway (and now you have to pay commission on that sale).  Though this is not the entire picture.

Our internal process measures new users coming from all publishers, coupon or not, and comparing that to the market average. One key metric we look at is new customers and if we drive a significant amount of new customers, then we’re doing our job as marketers.

There are also many other types of publishers which don’t get the glory but make up a significant part of the affiliate marketing industry. Loyalty sites, bloggers and content sites, search publisher and email marketing publishers. Each of these publisher segments have some ‘heavy hitters’ and it’s wise to partner with them to make your program a success.



Forget Gen Y, You Should be Targeting Gen Z. Find Out How and Why.

How to reach “millennials on steroids,” according to Business Insider – young adults born between 1996 and 2010 – is the conversation marketers around the world are having right now. Millennials, the eldest of which are now well into their thirties, are moving aside in the business world to make room for their younger counterparts.

Millennials grew up with the Internet, but for most, social media, text messaging, and always-on connectivity is a relatively new phenomenon. Gen Z’s members were steeped in these always-on technologies from an extremely early age. The youngest were born a full six years after Facebook’s initial launch. No Z-er was born before text messaging, and it’s conceivable that members of this cohort held an iPhone before they could read.

This ever-forward march of technological progress has created a community of hyper-connected individuals fluent in “meme culture,” armed with the knowledge and resources that the Internet brings to bear. While millennials still needed to sit down in libraries with a copy of the Encyclopedia Britannica to complete reports in school, answers for Gen Z have always been available through Google.

This divergence in upbringing is apparent in the purchasing behavior of the Gen Z crowd. The average Gen Z multitasks across a minimum of five screens daily, from cell phones to smart televisions to computers. The connected world is not a tool that they’ve adopted, it is the world into which they were born. They spend, on average, 41% of their time outside of school on mobile devices or computers, compared to 22% of millennials at a similar age.

Gen Z members are less brand loyal, prefer startups and independents to Fortune 500 companies, and spend more money on food and drinks than any other generation in the past. 

Connecting with Gen Z

  1. Understand and embrace their diversity – uniqueness and being proud of their individuality is core to their beliefs.
  2. Talk in images – memes, symbols, emojis, pictures, and videos.
  3. Communicate with “snackable content” – short bursts of information, more frequently.
  4. Tell your brand’s story across multiple screens or live streams.
  5. Don’t talk down to them. The average Gen Z’er knows more about global politics than a baby boomer that lived through the Cold War. Despite older generations having seen more years, the younger generation sees life move faster and has far greater access to education.
  6. Assume they have opinions, and allow them a space to be vocal. Don’t censor.
  7. Tap into their entrepreneurial spirit – Gen Z is industrious and wants to make things.
  8. Be humble and real; focus on sustainability, direct-to-consumer engagement. Avoid stuffiness.
  9. Be something worth fighting for – have a social component to your project.
  10. Optimize your search results. They do their research


[Summary]: Will People-Based Marketing Take Over?

Online marketing is changing all the time. One of the biggest new developments of the last few years is the rise of people-based marketing (PBM). PBM is starting to replace older marketing technologies, such as third-party cookies, and many marketers think it’s the wave of the future. So what exactly is PBM?

In a nutshell, people-based marketing is marketing directed at individuals, not anonymous cookies or statistics. To do PBM, companies use a variety of techniques to build a profile for a single, real human. Then they use the information they’ve gathered to market directly to that person. The idea is similar to that of using buyer personas, but even more specific and targeted.

How do companies build these individual profiles? Three main “anchors” help them connect the dots. The first of these anchors is login and profile information. Major sites like Facebook and Amazon can learn a lot about their individual users simply by looking at their profile data, purchase history, and other readily available information. 

The second anchor is called a device graph. Companies keep track of which devices people use to log in to their site. For instance, the same person might log in to Facebook from a desktop computer and then from a smartphone. That provides Facebook with some potentially useful information about the person’s technology ownership and habits.

Companies can also build user device graphs with the help of cross-identification technology. This technology tracks visitors’ locations, IP addresses, and browsing habits to create individual profiles for users. Cross-device identification technology is highly accurate, even if a user doesn’t log into the same account from more than one device. 

The third anchor that companies use to gather information about someone is called a persistent ID. A persistent ID is some kind of identification that the person uses regularly, in multiple contexts. Addresses, phone numbers, and credit card numbers are all examples of a persistent ID that a person might use in many different places – for instance, while shopping online, making a purchase at a brick-and-mortar store, updating a social media profile, or signing up for an in-person event. 

In the future, probabilistic techniques may improve to the point where individual profiles aren’t necessary for marketing anymore. In other words, marketers might eventually be able to target users based on statistics, not individual behaviors. Right now, though, people-based marketing is based on just that – people. An accurate, comprehensive understanding of real-life individuals helps companies understand how to market more effectively to their user base. 

In conclusion, people-based marketing is experiencing a boom in popularity, and it’s still growing and evolving all the time. Today’s PBM may not be what PBM looks like in five years. One thing is certain, though: PBM is paving the way for marketing to become even more personalized and targeted in the future. 



3 Ways to Make the Most of Your Agency-Brand Relationship

Maybe you've just hired an agency to launch your affiliate program. Maybe you've just made the transition from in-house to outsourced agency. In either case, the burning question at the forefront of your mind is, how do I make sure my affiliate program succeeds in the hands of this new agency? Here are a few things to keep in mind.

Communicate. Communicate. Communicate.

So many marketing managers and business owners make the mistake of thinking that the only involvement they need to have with their affiliate program, since they've hired an outsourced program manager, is to review the monthly reports and pay their bills on time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Without a steady stream of communication, how can your program manager be sure they are up to date on your latest promotions, new product launches or new initiatives?

We recommend setting up, at the very least, a bi-weekly call with your account manager to go over the latest updates in your business  and hear the latest opportunities your account manager has for you. If a call is too much of a time commitment, make sure to answer your program manager's emails promptly, and respond to new opportunities in a timely fashion.

Hold Them Accountable.

Sales can fluctuate week to week, and depending on your strategy, a variety of factors will come into play when it comes to measuring sales. But the one thing that should not fluctuate is the amount of effort put into your program. Make sure your agency is consistently bringing you new opportunities, recruiting new publishers, optimizing relationships and securing additional exposure for your brand

Don't Micromanage.

It can be very tempting to set up an email address for your account managers where you're cc'ed on every email they receive, but don't jump in and try to manage the program yourself when you've hired someone to do that for you. If you're holding your account managers accountable, and you're in steady communication with them, you should trust that they are doing their job. And that email you saw come through ten minutes ago? That will be handled.



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Reddit to Start Using Affiliate Links

In a blog post yesterday afternoon, Reddit announced that they would be testing out a partnership with Viglink, a competitor of Skimlinks, to automatically include affiliate tracking on Reddit links to merchant websites, excluding Amazon. The test will be conducted by user, and Reddit says only a small percentage of users will experience the change during the test phase. Redditors can also opt out, if they have any objections.

The change won’t affect existing affiliate links, so redditors who have already been using Reddit to post affiliate links won’t have their commission stolen from them, but this will affect all ‘unclaimed’ links. Merchants should expect to see in a bit of an uptick in Viglink clicks when this rolls out, and if you were previously receiving free referrals from Reddit, that’s about to come to a change.

One has to wonder what’s next for Reddit. Once links are affiliatized, might there be opportunities to pay for additional exposure via affiliates? Will Reddit turn into the Pinterest-that-might-have-been? Time will tell…

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Pinterest's Complicated History with Affiliate Links

Pinterest recently announced that it will allow users to start using affiliate links on pins. This is great news for the affiliate industry, especially as Pinterest has had an on-again off-again relationship with affiliate marketing until now.

Back in 2012, Pinterest took the affiliate world by storm, monetizing the site using Skimlinks, an affiliate tool that allows publishers to turn direct links into affiliate links on the fly. Every pinned item that linked back to a product on a merchant’s website was injected with affiliate links, earning Pinterest a commission every time someone clicked through and made a purchase. This proved quite a lucrative proposition for both Pinterest and Skimlinks, but when the public got wind of this, via a post on LL Social, they were none too pleased. Because Pinterest had never disclosed that they were using affiliate links, the partnership seemed seeped in subterfuge, lending a rather nefarious air to the whole situation.  Merchants who had been building up a presence on Pinterest, thinking it a free addition to their social media efforts, suddenly found out that they had been paying Pinterest, via Skimlinks, an affiliate commission on every sale referred.

The backlash from the exposé caused Pinterest to quickly realize that they had gone about this all wrong, and they soon ended their ‘test’ with Skimlinks.  Individual affiliates were still able to include their own affiliate links in their posts, earning a commission for themselves when their links were clicked on and the items featured were purchased. However, in 2015, Pinterest began stripping affiliate links, citing spam concerns and a desire to preserve the user experience. The announcement came as Pinterest began experimenting with promoted pins and buy buttons, and some speculated that the move seemed calculated to remove all barriers to Pinterest’s own monetization.

As of May 12, 2016, though, affiliates can rejoice, as affiliate links are once again allowed on Pinterest. The company announced this on their blog, and the full announcement can be read here. The blog post claims that the change comes as Pinterest’s spam detection policy becomes stronger and better equipped to deal with spammer abuse. This is great news for the industry, making it possible for affiliates to send traffic directly from Pinterest to a merchant's website, while ensuring that the tracking, and therefore their commission, remains intact.

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