Everyone knows the key players in the affiliate marketing chain:
There are plenty of resources out there that explain the role of each. Affiliates and advertisers are straightforward: one owns the product and the other promotes it.
But networks are more of a mystery.
You know what they are… you know what you use them for… but you may not know exactly how or why they remain so important in our industry. Our industry is changing – professionalizing. As such, only the professional networks will survive and thrive.
Simply put, they add value to the chain. They aren’t a superfluous addition – they’re a necessary component. Once you start working with a professional network, you realize that you prefer it that way – they uplift the entire industry (and your business along with it).
So how do they ensure this? How do they add value?
These days, the industry-changers – modern, professional networks – have to do a lot more than ever before. They must…
- Value mutual success… not just their own
- Put extra cash in your pocket by saving you from wasted spending
- Expedite your cash cycle (and thus your profitability) by a factor of 3x-4x
- Allow you to scale faster and with minimal risk
- Give you access to technology that would be too costly to obtain alone
- Re-invest the majority of their resources to directly improve your ROI, not their own (because it all comes back around)
- Provide you with exclusive offers and resources that you would never be able to find on your own
- Protect your investments, preventing losses that could kill your business overnight
These days, “how” and “why” are better questions to ask than “what”. Understanding how you can take full advantage of the benefits – and knowing why the network is going out of their way to provide them – will result in opportunities to make more money.
To give you exclusive insight into the “how” and “why” behind Advidi’s success, we sat down for a chat with our VP of Business Development, Mark Nolte, and our VP of Affiliate Management, Ivo Nota.
Ivo is in charge of managing the satisfaction and growth of our affiliate pool, while Mark is focused on managing and strengthening our relationships with advertisers. Together, they seek opportunities to build out our company’s core while growing our affiliate and advertiser base in a stable way… all while maintaining our unique company culture.
Ivo and Mark seek opportunities to build out our company’s core while growing our affiliate and advertiser base in a stable way.
Affiliate marketing is a highly competitive, ever-changing industry. What value does Advidi provide to make the network stand out?
Ivo (VP of Affiliate Management): To put it simply, we provide optimization, financing and aggregation.
We’re active in four verticals, so we can advise our partners on what’s happening in the industry. We see the wider scope of the market, so we spot trends and can find the ideal solution for their traffic or offer. We know what works best in each GEO and have a deep understanding of how our verticals work. We’re always on our toes, with market and big data analysts who are constantly feeding us with insights on what’s working best.
For example, one of our affiliates may be focused on Dating, but we can teach them how other relevant verticals work – offering them more opportunities to take advantage of.
We can also connect them to valuable alternative resources, including native and Facebook sources. This proactive approach to helping our partners find success has kept us moving forward since day one.
Mark (VP of Business Development): On the advertiser side, we offer global traffic with especially strong partnerships in the US, EU and Asia. You get the full benefit of a global marketplace in one company.
In addition, we have four verticals that are successful – it’s one of our biggest accomplishments, and we look forward to building on it. Some networks are focused heavily on one vertical… but as soon as you want to push traffic in diverse directions, they have to say no.
Every year we expand our verticals, but we do it in a way that doesn’t detract from those we’ve already established.Our perspective gets broader and broader, which in turn leads to more opportunities for both our affiliates and advertisers. That’s the power of aggregation.
Ivo: Our philosophy is simple: once you join our network, you should never have to leave. We can offer you everything you need. At the offer level, payment level and technical level, every effort is made to exceed our partners’ expectations. As a network, it’s our mission.
Mark: I think it’s important to note that we aren’t simply a services provider that makes your life easier. We don’t just want to be a client; we want to be a business partner. We accomplish that by adding value to your business rather than just taking work out of your hands.
How do you maintain success in your verticals while expanding into new markets?
Mark: Basically, we have “mini shops” within Advidi. For each vertical, teams are built out – they have a dedicated Team Lead with dedicated Business Development and Affiliate Managers. They run their own company within Advidi. We have four of them now. Each one works according to our structure and company philosophy – the framework we deliver – but each one has vastly different knowledge about their vertical.
We go in depth horizontally, but also vertically. Because of our advisory role, we see trends in what’s going on that not everyone is in a position to see – that could be methods another vertical is using to promoting offers, trends in Facebook traffic, or even a monetization model that is viable, but hasn’t yet been applied to your own vertical.
In this way, we’re actually more valuable than a network with a single focus – we avoid the “tunnel vision” that blocks innovation when the focus is too narrow.
What value does Advidi provide affiliates that cannot be accomplished by going directly to advertisers?
Ivo: We often surprise affiliates when it comes to the value we have to offer them as a global network. We are very, very much involved in giving them a selection of our best offers that we know will fit with their model. Otherwise they have to figure that out themselves. They can spend money on ads, wasting their budget on offers that won’t work before they finally find something viable – and even then, it may not be nearly as profitable as the solution we would have suggested to them.
Just as we optimize with them, we also think with them – we’re heavily invested in their success. Ours depends on it.
We protect them from situations in which they’ve invested in traffic, but don’t end up getting paid, which is common in this industry. We even prefinance them, too – networks are often seen as “just adding another link to the chain”, but we basically work like a bank, making sure they have the cash flow to continually invest in their campaigns.
For example, we’re helping someone in SE Asia who just had his first $1k buy. He’s about to grow into a $10k pub thanks to pre-financing. That gives us a good feeling, of course, but it’s also smart business to make dynamic financing decisions. When we see someone with an angle or campaign that shows a lot of promise, we want to exploit it while it’s hot, so we invest heavily.
Intelligently preventing cash flow problems maximizes ROI for both sides. We’re looking for those opportunities whenever possible.
What does Advidi offer advertisers that cannot be accomplished through direct affiliate programs?
Mark: Advertisers can always create their own affiliate department, but this requires time and money. Time and money they could be spending on improving their products and services. As a network, we have greater insight into the market because we work with a lot of advertisers at once. Simply put, it’s not their core business to generate quality traffic. That’s our specialty.
On the traffic side, we have thousands of traffic sources that have proven track records to provide the advertiser with the traffic they need (rather than testing this themselves).
It all comes back to optimization, aggregation and financing. Once we start working closely with an advertiser, we put a lot of effort into building the relationship. We’ll help them grow.
We’re in a position to offer this value because we learn from the optimization and A/B testing we put our ads through. We give our advertisers access to thousands of affiliates around the world, with highly diverse traffic types. And they only have to talk to us. That allows them to focus on (and further invest in) their product.
At the same time, our pre-financing allows affiliates to get quickly paid and thus re-invest with zero delay. Advertisers have to watch traffic quality closely, so they’ll usually only pay affiliates after a significant delay. We bridge that gap. For the big affiliates, we pay in a matter of days, yet are paid on significantly longer terms by our advertising partners. That’s our risk… and it’s a big part of why advertisers are happy to work with networks. We take away the concern of traffic quality internally, eliminating hassles and protecting investments on both sides.
What is your process for obtaining new affiliates?
Ivo: In addition to traditional networking, our branding has been particularly effective as an inbound technique. Because of our branding, a lot of affiliates now come to us – instead of us having to search for them. This is especially true for new verticals beyond Dating, where we’re already well known.
We work hard to offer more than what our partners expect. We’re more specialized in our verticals, with dedicated teams. We have exclusive deals that nobody has, along with multiple verticals and niches.
We also attend the biggest affiliate marketing conferences each year, along with annual contests that bring advertisers and affiliates to our office in Amsterdam. These points of personal contact help to strengthen the connection.
Finally, our reputation is key. We have an impeccable payment history. New partners can check Facebook groups and forums to find that we’re always on time with payments – there are no outstanding issues.
Having a brand that’s seen as reliable brings in a lot of clients. It’s not given as much credit, but avoiding bad publicity is as important as building a positive reputation.
Why might you reject an affiliate from the network?
Ivo: Most commonly, it’s because they have traffic we don’t allow, such as incentive traffic. We may also discover that he’s not respected in forums or that he’s a scammer – that’s obviously not going to work.
Beyond the basics, we have an extensive set of questions up front. We request proof and vet them with questions that prove their knowledge… short of that, we decline.
Our strict onboarding process means we do reject some qualified affiliates on occasion, but it’s worth it from a risk management perspective.
Mark: I mention this a lot because it’s an important point… you need experts working at your network.
You can only plug a weak offer with an affiliate so many times before he loses trust in your judgment – and with it, all faith in your network is gone. That’s a major barrier to starting a network. You have to see hundreds of offers going by – always performing A/B testing to predict where the market is going – if you want to give good advice.
Ivo: It’s always a discussion between the AM and the affiliate. We make recommendations, but it’s up to them what they end up running.
It’s really important to know clients and know what actually works for them. They’ve invested in their traffic already. They don’t want to waste it on an offer that delivers low EPC (Earnings Per Click). It’s exactly why the human factor is still important in this industry.
So does that mean you have a higher level of confidence in giving advice to affiliates?
Mark: Well, we are still so successful in Dating… and to build out three additional verticals is something that really proves our point. We provide the structure, the Advidi methodology… but after that, it’s all about these BDs and AMs, who are super specialists in their field and their vertical, but also their client base. They really know what their affiliates need and have them in mind at all times.
Ivo: In short, they really know both sides – what’s coming in and where it will go. Eventually our AMs get to the point where they see an offer and can pick their top clients for whom it could work right away. When they see the lander, they think immediately: “Oh, that’s going to be great for ID 12345.” There’s an element of mastery that is fundamental to making the right decisions day after day.
How do you find prospective advertisers?
Mark: We use a blend of processes – sometimes we find them, but often they find us. This comes through word-of-mouth recommendations from clients and people in the industry, along with the attention we attract with content, events, contests and our transparent corporate culture. Advertisers see that we treat our people well and always try to add value, so they come to us. They recognize that the way we treat our people directly reflects how their accounts will be treated.
How do you begin partnerships with new advertisers?
Mark: Once we’ve identified a prospective advertiser, the first thing we do is start the conversation, usually on Skype. We find out if they have a marketing budget rather than waiting for rebills, or if they have a first deposit to pay us. We note whether we’ll have separate contacts for tech, finance and account management (that’s always preferred, rather than one guy who does it all).
We ask a lot of questions to get to know them and how they operate. Where are they based? Are they registered at a chamber of commerce? Do they have referrals from other people in the industry?
That’s in addition to our background vetting process. We do intensive searches on the company, including its key people. We review industry resources such as forums and Facebook groups to find out if they’ve ever had any issues. Any sort of registration and company structure are reviewed – we look at their website and the server clusters it’s in. Just like anyone you’d do business with… copies of passports, chamber of commerce, bank statements, etc.
The process is extensive, but it benefits both parties. When we know we can fully trust our advertisers, we’re able to provide them with a lot more traffic and support.
Who’s responsible for that process?
Mark: We have BD managers in charge of new offers and advertisers. They liaise with our finance department to get a desk check, along with other departments – there’s always 4-6 eyeballs on everything we add to the system to minimize risk and ensure profitability.
How long does it take to launch a new offer? What indicates whether an advertiser will be good to work with?
Mark: We do our proper due diligence up front, making sure there’s an Insertion Order (a purchase contract), signatures, checks, etc. While you’re setting up offers in CAKE, you have to make sure tracking works… and sometimes you can already tell that things will be a nightmare. So that’s definitely something we take into account. When issues arise – and they will – you want someone on the other end who’s very capable and will figure out the problem with you.
Ivo: We never go full blast in the beginning, ensuring that we have proven affiliates for the test traffic. We also have very strict credit management regarding how much and how fast we scale, along with some paid invoices to ensure that we’re in a position to expand.
Mark: That’s done by finance – they’ll allow us to release caps and move to higher spending based on that relationship.
Why are exclusive offers important within Advidi?
Mark: Exclusive offers are the unicorn of our industry. They require a great deal of trust from the advertiser and – especially with two-way exclusivity – from the network. We pursue these deals continuously. It gives us a tool to beat the competition in the affiliate marketing space; traffic will have to come to us to get the offer. It is a collaboration between the two parties with mutual interest to create the best offer possible.
What role do systems play at Advidi?
Ivo: They’re a main part of our role. We want to see how people are performing, how the stats look, what the results from conferences are, how our CRM is being used… these all give an indication of where we are and where we want to go.
We have to ask: “What do we need?” We need a team, people, a system.
We use technical systems to aggregate data, which we use to make decisions constantly, but we also used systemized processes to ensure stability in an industry that’s constantly changing. It’s a lot of back and forth. Always a small puzzle you need to put together.
What is involved in setting up a new vertical, such as the Casino vertical launched last November?
Mark: There’s always a smorgasbord of different verticals in front of us. We have a great CRM with many leads in different verticals that we’re not active in now. We’ve always looked at BizOps… I’m from Gaming, so that’s always on my mind… Finance, CPI… there’s a lot out there. And we’re lucky to have a company that is growing, but is still agile enough to jump on these things when we see the right opportunity. We’re open to start any vertical, but we’d like to have an expert in the industry to help us run the “mini shop” that will own it.
How do you find those experts?
Mark: It’s tough. It’s so tough. We have an in-house recruiter which helps a lot now. We have big networks on Facebook and LinkedIn where we can cast our rods. But we’re seeking very specific knowledge from someone who also has to be the right Advidi person that fits the team and fits the company culture. That’s much more important to us than your knowledge.
Why is a recruiter necessary? What does “people fit” mean?
Mark: What we require from a team member involves a unique combination, which I compare to three pillars.
First, the person has to be technical. They need to understand (or quickly learn) CAKE, how to set up the right offer, tracking links, etc.
The second pillar requires that they’re analytical. Every day when they’re sitting with their coffee, they have to know how to interpret what they’re seeing. “What does it mean when I see this number? What opportunities does this suggest, and what action should I take in response?”
The third pillar involves being communicative. You have to have excellent communication skills – not just internally, getting people excited about your offer, but also externally – working with different partners in different time zones with unique corporate structures, holiday schedules, etc. You have to constantly be on the ball with that stuff.
We can get someone who’s good with communication – most salespeople are good at that. They can have coffee, drive around all day, be generally enjoyable and energetic. But the other two aspects are tough. Being analytical and technical is a pain to find. They don’t mix well, those traits. It’s a special breed.
Ivo: …and then all that is meaningless if they don’t fit with the team.
We all depend on each other to be successful. If you have no sense of humor or are somebody who’s not clicking with the team, or not enjoying Amsterdam, it won’t work. All that stuff works together to being a part of Advidi. It’s how we maintain our mastery within the company.
Mark: In the end, the result is worth all the effort. Everyone is very passionate about their work here. It’s the only way it works. We invest in our employees the same as we invest in our affiliates and advertisers.
Ivo: Yea. We’re not here for the quick buck. We’re here for the long run.