Tips on how to benefit from the new world of affiliate marketing with Robert Glazer

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On the internet, there are people who sell stuff, and people who build audiences and communities. Affiliate Marketing or Partner Marketing is a way for them to get together.

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Doug: Well, welcome back, listeners, to another episode of Real Marketing Real Fast. Today’s guest is very interesting, I had a chance to have a look at his background, both personally and then corporately, and I found his TED Talk really, really inspiring around how he works with his team.

My guest today is Robert Glazer. He’s the founder and CEO of a global performance marketing agency called Acceleration Partners. He is a serial entrepreneur and has a passion for helping individuals and organizations build their capacity to elevate.

Now, for those of you who aren’t aware of what performance marketing is, performance marketing is when the advertiser, the company that you’re advertising with, only gets paid if there is a result. And in this case, if there’s a sale.

So, instead of spending money on advertising and wondering what’s going to happen, you work with someone like Robert, find a publisher, you partner with them, and through that partnership, they get paid if they convert the message to sales.

So, with Robert and his company under his leadership, Acceleration Partners has received numerous industry awards. And as well as that, company culture awards, including the Glassdoor Employees’ Choice two years in a row, Ad Age’s Best Place to Work, Entrepreneur’s Top Company Culture, Great Places to Work, and Fortune’s Best Small and Medium-Sized Businesses three years in a row, as well as the Boston Globe’s Top Workplaces two years in a row.

And then Bob was named Glassdoor’s List of Top CEOs to Medium-Sized Companies in the US, ranking number two. And you might ask, “Well, why is this important?” Well, the reason that it’s important, at least in my opinion, is when I’m buying services and looking for companies and individuals to partner with, one of my concerns is longevity.

So, yes, service has got to be there. Yes, pricing has got to be there. But beyond that, how does the company run, and how does the company treat their team?

Bob’s also a regular columnist for Forbes Inc. and Entrepreneur magazine. His writing reaches about five million people around the globe who resonate with his topics, which range from performance marketing entrepreneurship to company culture, hiring and leadership.

He’s a sought-after speaker. He shares his insights every Friday, in a Friday Forward email, which I’ve just signed up for, and I’d encourage you to after you listen to the episode, if you like, what you see, that you do the same thing. He reaches about a hundred thousand individuals through that email.

And he’s also the host of a new podcast, so I want to give a shout out to Robert and his team as new podcasters. And the name of the podcast is Elevate with Robert Glazer. He sits down with leaders and thinkers and authors to discuss personal growth and helping others live their best life.

He’s also the author of two books, Performance Partnerships, and a second book, Elevate, which will be out in October 2019.

Now, he doesn’t just work. Outside of work, Bob can be found skiing, cycling, reading, traveling and spending quality time with his family and overseeing some sort of home renovation budget.

I’d like to welcome Robert Glazer, founder of Global Performance Marketing agency, Acceleration Partners, to the Real Marketing Real Fast podcast today.

Well, hey, Robert, I’m super excited to have you on the Real Marketing Real Fast podcast today. Welcome to the show.

Robert: Thanks, Doug. Good to be here.

Doug: Well, what’s really cool was that, before we got on the air, I made sure that I took a look at your company, and did a little bit of background on your company. But I was really taken back by your TED Talk, which didn’t talk about your company much at all. And it really talked about your approach to working with your team and being transparent and honest with your staff.

Robert: Yeah, we’re trying to change the conversation. As I’ve said, I think there’s been a lot of playbooks handed down from generation to generation of command and control leadership, and the practice of two weeks’ notice and there are a lot of things that just people have done that don’t make sense to me, particularly in the context of trying to build a good culture.

It’s not easy, but we’ve tried to really change the narrative on these things, and have some programs that are different. Again, sometimes it’s hard. You talking about behavior that people have practiced over seven or eight jobs, to unwind them from that, and we struggle with it sometimes. But I just think the relationship between the companies and employees is going to be different. Rita Hoffman just wrote a book called The Alliance, [inaudible 00:04:27] Alliance, and I am aligned with his philosophy on that.

We want to have good transitions in terms of how people come in, and how they leave and have a more open conversation about that, and build a productive alumni group and not have a lot of these awkward situations. Because, as I said in that talk, and I don’t think a lot of people realized at the time, all’s well that ends well, and how these relationships and have a dramatic impact on the memory of the entire experience.

And that could be an employee who did great work, and then how they left really tarnished their reputation with their managers at the company, or a company that had a great experience with the employee, and then just how they handled the end sent that employee off as a detractor into the world.

Doug: Well, and for me, I think, looking back at the recommendation I make to my clients as we’re partnering with different companies, whether it’s media companies, or they’re advertising companies, or software, service companies, is, in the back of my mind, it goes way beyond, can they provide the best product at a fair price? It’s, what’s the longevity of the company look like?

If we’re going to partner with somebody, the idea of getting a fair price is just, okay, you have to do that. But is the company going to stick around? And one of those things you need to consider as well, how do they treat their employees? Are their employees happy? Are they going to be there? Or am I going to partner with this company or invest in this company, and then, a year later, six months down the road, two years later, find out that things aren’t going well?

Robert: I think Simon Sinek said it best. I think he said, “Customers can never love a company unless employees like it first.” I know, as someone who buys services from other company, that people, what we hate … what everyone hates the most is account turnover, right? That the team they’re working with and got to know … I remember some vendors were a little on five different people in two years, and after a while you just get fatigued.

That really impacts their satisfaction with you. We hope that people … we think we do the best work in the industry, but they also want to work with us because of the type of people we are, and our philosophy. And when the bleep hits the road, how people behave in these situations, and I think, demonstration of how they’ve … the integrity that they’ve shown, is really where it becomes a differentiator.

Doug: Yeah, absolutely. And, as you said, stuff goes wrong. For me, lots of times, I look at companies and situations, and if they haven’t had a major problem, then I don’t know how they’re going to react if something goes wrong. I never look at it critically, and like, “Oh, well, this went wrong with their company.” It’s like, how’d they deal with it? Oh, they dealt with it fine, so if something happens again, I can trust that they’re likely to follow that same protocol, and things will be okay.

Robert: Yeah. I think there’s some data. I don’t have the [inaudible], that a problem resolved well is better, the relationship is better than if you never had a problem at all. So, these are opportunities … Also, I think the first 90 days, we have a whole setup process in the first 90 days, because I think that that is when you’re building trust, and you’re either working from a trust deficit or a trust asset. And if people start questioning your trust from the beginning, it’s really hard to recover from that.

Doug: That’s a great way to transition from how you treat your partners or your team, to what do you do for businesses? Do you want to just take a minute and, in your own words, just share what Acceleration Partners does?

Robert: Sure. Acceleration Partners, as far as I know, is the largest independent agency running affiliate and partner programs. We help brands, mostly direct-to-consumer brands, e-commerce, B2C, set up large-scale affiliate and partner programs, where they have hundreds if not thousands of partners who are across publishers who have a myriad of activities. Whether that is deal sites, or blog sites or comparison shopping sites, or the properties of large media companies who are interested in engaging with these brands on a performance basis and getting paid for the outcomes that they drive, which are trackable.

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On the internet, there are people who sell stuff, and people who build audiences and communities. Affiliate Marketing or Partner Marketing is a way for them to get together.

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While not an elevator pitch, I think that’s probably a better explanation of what we do. We help either start these programs, or grow them, and we end up being the main interface with recruiting and interacting with all these partners on a day-to-day basis.

There’s a lot of technology in partner marketing and affiliate marketing, but what you have, the different from a Facebook or a Google is that you have lots of partners, so it’s like running a large-scale business development program at scale. These are real people on the other side with questions, ideas, programs they want to run with you. And so we play that agency role, similar to how you might have paid Facebook or a paid social platform, but an agency that manages that campaign for you.

Same thing with the search. You’d have … you use Google, but you usually have a search firm or do that in-house. We manage the programs, and we use the different platforms that are experts in those platforms.

Doug: That’s really cool. I’ve seen some really successful affiliate launches that have gone well, that have quite quickly done seven figures, because they’ve taken this approach, and they built a team, and they built a network, and they’ve launched.

What point is a good fit for someone to come to your company? Is there a certain size of companies, or a certain sector that you guys specialize in?

Robert: Yeah. Most of our clients are doing more than $30 or $50 million online. I always say, I don’t … there are different business models. We are really set up for enterprise programs, that’s been part of our kind of global push, and we have larger account teams. There are a lot of companies that work with, again, like any market, more of the SMB market.

I don’t think you should start an affiliate program or partner program before you have a couple million in revenue, because of this … You need some brand awareness, you need some traction on your product and pricing. This is an audience that, if you’re a new entrant, and you’re asking for shelf space, and you haven’t figured out your pricing and business model, and you’re going to have a lot of changes, they don’t get paid unless they perform. So they run out of patience with you very quickly.

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On the internet, there are people who sell stuff, and people who build audiences and communities. Affiliate Marketing or Partner Marketing is a way for them to get together.

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I think to search and paid search, and even paid social, ramp up volume, figure out the pricing, figure out what works, get your economics, and then you’re ready for an affiliate program, probably at a couple million in sales online. You can always run one smaller if you pick the right platform, and you actually have someone who has time to pay attention to it. But in general, we tend to work with larger programs.

Doug: Well, that makes sense. As you said, it’s performance-based. So, from the publisher side, if I’m the publisher, I’m not going to get paid unless I sell your product.

Robert: Yeah.

Doug: And I don’t want to be the testing ground while you’re trying to figure out a copy and offers-

Robert: Exactly.

Doug: … and pricing and delivery, because I don’t get paid for any of that. I only get paid when the credit card clears, and you take delivery of the product.

Robert: Yeah. And I’ll give you a great example of this. We turn down a lot of clients, in the way of being honest with them about, we just don’t think it’s the right fit.

There was a company, years ago, that came to us. They wanted to launch on all of these channels at once. They were going to do swappable SIM cards in the US, and they had a fair amount of money, and most people are willing to take their money. And we just had a discussion with them. We said, “Look, this is not something that people know or do here. It’s not like Europe. People just don’t even understand this. We just would strongly-

Doug: That’s right, yeah.

Robert: You need to establish this first, and then do it.” And they said they wanted to go ahead and do it. I don’t know whether they did it with someone else or otherwise, but I don’t think they ever launched. It was a disaster.

We … Look, the partners that we work with, trust us. We have a long experience. I don’t want to bring them something that’s going to be a disaster, because then when I call them about the next program, even if I get paid, I call them about the next program, they’re not going to want to work with us. That was a great case where we were telling the company, “You really don’t want … I know you were offering us a lot of money to do this, but you really don’t want to do this, because it’s not a market-launch strategy. You would need to establish this as a product here, figure out who the right audience is for it, and then maybe it would work for you.”

Doug: Well, good advice. I always say that, if I can’t help somebody, the best thing I can do is introduce them to somebody who can.

Robert: Yeah. People don’t like when we won’t work with them. But, unlike a lot of people in our industry that just … We have partners, or we talk to platforms, then they’re like, “Oh, we want enterprise, but how do we have a $200 offering?” We’re very comfortable with what we do and what we don’t do. We are not trying to do everything.

I’ll refer to other people, our competitors, if it’s not a fit if it’s … I actually always think the really good companies are super clear about what they say no to. And it’s interesting. You know the phrase, the company that … you want to get into the club that wouldn’t have you.

There’s sometimes, even, when we’re at capacity, and we don’t like over-promising and under-delivering, and so we say the client, “We just can’t take you on as a client. We don’t have a start date in the next couple of months.” And people get all angry.

Doug: Yeah, I’ve been there. [crosstalk 00:13:41]-

Robert: These are the same clients that ask us for a proposal, and then don’t respond, seven months later. I’m like, “I don’t remember owing you anything. Aren’t you more appreciative that I’m not going to just say ‘yes’ to you when I don’t have the staff to do it?”

Doug: That’s funny. Well, I always judge the service level with my pre-sales conversations, and I look at how responsive they are. And I’m thinking, so, if I can’t get people to respond to me inquiring off the website, and then following up, that’s what I can expect after I send them money. The difference is now I have more urgency because I’ve sent them money.

Robert: Yeah. Sorry, I was just going to say, I agree with that. I think the prospecting process is a great dating thing. I know someone, years ago, was complaining to me in an interview that they went in, and the guy who was interviewing her was just a total chauvinist, and a jerk, and all this stuff. And I was like, “Great. Aren’t you glad that you saw that in the interview, and you didn’t go to work there?”

I’d be more worried if he didn’t act like himself in the interview, and then, you saw Jekyll and Hyde on the first day.

Doug: Yeah, you show up Monday and you going, “Who is this guy?” Yeah, I had a job experience like that once. They made all these promises, and Monday I went in and found out, yeah, none of the things that HR said were true, according to all the staff. So it was time to readjust by noon.

Robert: We had someone from our company who, again, through this transition program, wanted to do something different, got a great job, had a culture somewhere else, told her she could work from home. Got there, and said, “Oh, you can’t work from home unless you want to take a pay cut.” I mean, just amazed … You got to be really careful about what people say-

Doug: Whoops.

Robert: … versus what they do.

Doug: Can you walk us through an example of how somebody scales? I’ve got an online business, I’m selling B2B or B2C, and I’ve got a few million dollars in sales, so I’ve been doing that through traditional marketing, maybe some direct mail and digital marketing.

And now I come to you, say, “Okay, I want to take this to the next level.” Is there an example of a client you’d like to share? Or just a general example to walk us through that process, what that’d look like, and what the result would look like?

Robert: Yeah. I think it’s probably better if I just amalgamate what that looks like. You don’t have to give away a secret, I always joke, but I don’t think what we do is rocket science. The difference is, we’re applying real resources against it.

So, if someone came to us and did not have a program, and wanted to launch a program, and let’s just say they’re $10 or $20 million online, I think just, this’ll give a little more variety.

We would talk to them, and we’d say, “All right, well, what are you doing now? Which other departments, maybe your influencer partner … are you doing stuff that actually could put onto this platform? You looking to work with a traditional network? Do you want it more to be a SAS sort of partner program under your own brand? Are you going to be the US only? Are you going to be global?”

And a lot of these questions would help us make recommendations for which platform or platforms they would want to want to work with. Then what we do is, with them, we’d pick the platform partner. We’d set up all the program, we’d put creatives in the systems, offers, we’d build all the workflows and the welcomes, and all this stuff.

You’re treating a partner like you would a customer. We’re going to acquire them, retain them, give them a welcome series. And then what we do, is we go out and recruit, so you’re always in this lifecycle of recruiting new partners, getting them active, and then getting them engaged in you, and more. It’s, again, like sales. From you have people in the marketing funnel, to they’re starting to try to expand your work with them.

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On the internet, there are people who sell stuff, and people who build audiences and communities. Affiliate Marketing or Partner Marketing is a way for them to get together.

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We always need to be recruiting new people, but it’s probably split between the time spent on recruiting and business development, and then engaging the current partners, figuring out what they need, what their site’s like, what campaigns they want to run, and helping them to do more business with the brand.

And then you’re looking at all the reporting and analytics, and making decisions on where to pay more and less, and that’s a very high level of what a program would look like. So, on an ongoing basis, we’re putting new creatives in the system, we’re building new campaigns, we’re sending emails to partners, things that they can do, let them know about product releases, sales.

A lot of brands make the mistake of taking their consumer messaging, and just repackaging it to their partners. For us, it’s a little bit different. Let’s say that-

Doug: So, when you’re referring to partners, I just want to clear up. So-

Robert: The same as an affiliate.

Doug: A partner-

Robert: A synonym for a publisher-

Doug: Same as an affiliate.

Robert: or affiliate. I actually find a partner just be an easier, more universal word than publisher affiliate. So, a person with content or audience, who is working with the brand.

Doug: Okay. So those are your partners.

Robert: Yeah.

Doug: Okay. And then, the other guys are your brands or clients.

Robert: Brands or advertisers, yeah. So-

Doug: Or advertisers. Okay.

Robert: People with the money to spend on reach, and they’re selling the product, and then the people who have reach. Basically, this is the whole premise of affiliate marketing, partner marketing, is that the internet is broken down between people who sell stuff, and people who build audiences and communities. And this is really a way for them to get together, and each … not have to do what they’re not good at.

Doug: Right. And take advantage and leverage the audiences and the community that brands, or those partners, in your case, have built.

Robert: Right. Let’s say, as an example, I had started this blog years ago, and I build … and it’s top mystery books, and I ranked number one for this and everyone’s always coming to me, the top mystery books. Well, if I want to monetize, I can either start writing mystery books or figure out a way to get paid when people buy those mystery books from the other vendors.

And conversely, there are people who are selling mystery books that just don’t have anyone coming to their website searching for what the best books are in general. They have people come in when they know what they want to buy. Really, it is just the ecosystem partnering up to match up supply and demand.

Doug: Do you see an increased demand … In terms of your business, I know, I heard your numbers, I think you said you’d grown in 1,000%, so obviously, your company’s growth. But do you think that represents the affiliate industry, or is this just you guys taking market share?

Robert: I think it’s both. Its good news and bad news, I think … The industry is rebranding itself as partner marketing. We wrote a book a couple of years ago called Performance Partnerships, because there’s a lot of legacy baggage associated with some of the affiliate stuff that’s done through lead gen, and list swaps, and otherwise. I think people misperceive or have a negative connotation when it comes to them doing more traditional revenue-share based affiliate.

The industry tried to rebrand itself as performance marketing, but that covers … that’s all the paid search, and social, and even SEO is calling it performance marketing, so it just got into a little bit of a mess.

There’s a lot of money and resources behind, now, this notion of partner marketing as the whole, and I think affiliate marketing is part of that. Some of the old school affiliate marketing, I think, is dying, which is great, like the scammy stuff, the “Hey, we don’t know who we are, we break an offer into 10 pieces and resell it,” and all this stuff.

I think the using technology to build scalable partner programs, in which there’s a lot more transparency, is growing a ton. I think we were early on that, so we’ve been seen as a leader in that. But the technology platforms are all moving that way. Here’s the technology, you control how you do with it. There’s a little less of a network focus, and we see a lot of growth in that because all these companies going direct to the consumer is not interested in brand budgets. They’re interested in paying for sales.

Even if, say it was five years ago, and Pampers was doing a lot of brand marketing, well, now Pampers has a subscription diaper service that’s direct on their site. That marketing has moved into that budget, and if publishers and sites out there want to get into that budget, they’re really looking to do that on performance or an outcome basis.

We’ve seen all the large media companies, and all their properties that were doing display ads, and saw that revenue kind of collapse over the last couple of years, because of programmatic, they’re all now jumping into the performance space. Before, they’d say, “Yeah, we’d run a banner ad,” and they’ll say, “Oh, well, now we’re willing to maybe develop some content, and work on a performance basis.”

Doug: Yeah, yeah, that’s funny.

Robert: We see huge growth under this new, bigger umbrella of partner marketing and performance partnerships.

Doug: Well, I love that. I love what you’re saying. People aren’t interested in brand marketing, they’re interested in selling products. And I’ve felt that way forever, and I’ve just never heard anybody else say that, so it’s good to hear that there’s at least two of us that are thinking that way.

Robert: Yeah. Look, let’s talk about Procter & Gamble. They’re not a client of ours, but there are some similar ones where, if it was five or 10 years ago, all this money would be going through brand and co-marketing and all this stuff.

Well, brands like Unilever and P&G and otherwise, are now setting up direct e-commerce stores on their website, and are looking to sell, and are now trying to learn how to do affiliate, and paid search, and paid social. It’s really shifting the balance of the marketing portfolio.

Doug: So, looking at where the industry has come from, it’s funny, because we’re both in the marketing industry, so there is this confusion in the industry, and maybe this bad stigma, around affiliate marketing because of the bad players that were there. And now you’re rebranding that to being partner marketing.

In my space where, in my industry, I used to talk about email list rental all the time, and people say, “It’s illegal.” It’s like, “No, I’m partnering with brands. It’s permission-based.” So now it’s moved to sponsored email. So, again, a rebrand.

It’s just interesting that, in our own industry, that’s all about communications and marketing, but there’s still this misconception, and a misunderstanding, of what it is that you actually do.

Robert: Yeah. Look, at its simplest form, whatever you call it, it is paying for outcomes, right? It is a CPA on a performance basis.

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On the internet, there are people who sell stuff, and people who build audiences and communities. Affiliate Marketing or Partner Marketing is a way for them to get together.

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I think a lot of the bad name that came around affiliate was, you had two things going on. A lot of vagaries, crockery, around what is this person doing? I don’t even know who my partners are. That’s why I like the word partner and not an affiliate. An affiliate is this person that is selling stuff for my brand, that I don’t know who they are, or even what they’re doing.

And I think that’s not what brands are interested in anymore. And because of all this last-in attribution, and that that was the dominant model of attribution, a lot of these guys were just smarter than the brands and figured out how to be last in.

So they weren’t necessarily creating value, it was like, how do I find the guys already trying to go back to the cart, and intercept that? And because there’s no transparency, then they don’t really need to see what they’re doing. A lot of these affiliates were really doing things that weren’t fundamentally valuable to the brand.

And so I think that, between that and the lead gen, selling, buying leads, when you go to a show and it sounds like scalping tickets, like finally … I’ve heard of a show, where guys were selling Russian mobile traffic. And I was like, “Well, I don’t even understand what that is.” Is that… that’s where a lot of the bad reputation comes from.

Doug: Sure. No, fair enough.

Robert: Yeah.

Doug: So, just so I’m clear, and clear for our audience, in terms of expectations, what you’re saying is that it is performance-based. Would I know who the partners are? So, if, for example, if I’m working with you, and one of your partners was, I don’t know, the New York Times, and they were going to do something, would I know that? Or is it, like you said, often it’s just a black box, you don’t see that?

Robert: Yeah. With the brands that we work with and the programs we run, it is fully transparent. You would know what your partner is doing, what they’re doing, what pages.

We even insist, because there’s a whole thing of sub-affiliate networks, where people aggregate other partners.

Doug: Sure.

Robert: And almost all of our clients insist that the sub-affiliate networks expose all of the underlying partners and publishers. Because a lot of times you’ll find that you rejected someone from the front door, and they ran around to the back door-

Doug: Snuck in, yeah.

Robert: … to get in a different way. What we believe is, if … Can you imagine if there was a franchise company, and they were working with … it’s like McDonald’s or Panera, and the person’s like, “Well, I’m opening a store, and I’m not telling you where it is.” When you franchise, you see the register, you see everything, you approve it.

Similar thing here. The brands that we work with, they want a fully transparent program, and they want to know who they’re working with, and how they’re working with them.

Now, I know there’s a lot of fear, I think, from particularly affiliates, five, 10 years ago. Oh, well, then they’ll just copy what we’re doing, and all that stuff. And I really don’t see it that much. If you were doing something that was a gimmick, or a little scammy, and they’re trying to plug that hole, or you are buying their traffic or something like that, and they could just go do that, then I could see that.

But usually, you’re partnering with … If Adidas partners with Vanity Fair, it’s not that Adidas doesn’t understand what Vanity Fair’s doing, they just don’t run a publishing company with that much content. So, I don’t … When you get down to that level with larger partners, there’s an acknowledgment that that is not what we do.

Doug: I’ve been on the receiving end for affiliates, because my wife writes for a health and wellness blog, and one of our partners is Reebok. And so, it’s an affiliate partner. And there, for us anyhow, our experience as consumers has been great because they’re super responsive, they’ve always got great offers, which is helpful for the blog, and their offers are good. And they move product, and they’re responsive to us as affiliate partners.

Robert: Great. We managed that program, so that’s good to hear.

Doug: I didn’t know that.

Robert: Yeah. I think if you just … A good relationship, again. Reebok is in the business of manufacturing shoes and selling shoes. They’re not going to build a 400% content, and magazine, and website team, and all that stuff like that. I think they’d much rather partner with people that have that and find a way to work productively with them.

Doug: That makes sense. In this case, every week there’s new content going out, and they can only have so many staff. As you said, they’re in the shoe business. They can only have so many people on staff that are writers and graphic designers and audio guys, to produce content.

Robert: Exactly.

Doug: What are you most excited about in your industry in the next six to 12 months? What’s happening?

Robert: I think we’re really excited at the momentum behind partner marketing, getting this at the C-suite level. I think affiliate marketing was always this thing unto itself, and not integrated, and off in this little world of its own.

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On the internet, there are people who sell stuff, and people who build audiences and communities. Affiliate Marketing or Partner Marketing is a way for them to get together.

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But I think that this is going to become the dominant form of online marketing as people just realize, look, why would we pay for inputs when we could pay for outcomes?

They’re finding that the Google/Facebook duopoly, the prices just keep going up. I’m excited to see this become a channel that gets, rather than the redheaded stepchild, that really gets upgraded in the marketing suite over the next year or two, and becomes maybe one of the primary things that people are working on.

Doug: One of the things that came to mind when you were giving me an idea of dollar volume, is, we’ve been looking at some online business that is for sale, and a couple of them, they’re doing extremely well. They’re in your revenue model, but they’re doing it all on Amazon.

When I reached out for their financials, and I said, “Hey, can you tell me how big your customer list is, and how current it is, and how you maintain it?”, I got to know back saying, “Well, we don’t have any of that information. It’s all through Amazon. Does this change your interest in the business?”

Like, “Oh, yeah.” [crosstalk 00:29:04]-

Robert: It’s a marketplace play, yeah.

Doug: Yeah. It’s like, “I’m not interested, because if it disappears off Amazon tomorrow, it’s gone.”

But is there an opportunity to take something like that, that’s maybe doing five, or six, or seven million dollars, and move it from a marketplace into a partnership, or into a relationship with you guys?

Robert: Yeah. Or, just to be a little more diversified. Look, the reason why that business was successful was probably totally different and really worked to do the Amazon game.

But, yeah. I think, particularly, people see this as a really great balance to the Amazon marketplace game, or Google, or Facebook, or just these really large businesses that can change terms on them at any moment. You’re doing 80% of your stuff through Google, and they bump up their minimum bids 30 cents. Or you’re doing the … through Amazon, and they change the commission rate.

We’ve actually seen some publisher businesses that we’re monetizing almost exclusively through Amazon, and rates change and things change. It can be a mess. And then they were looking to just diversify, to work with more retailers than just Amazon, because it can be hugely disruptive.

In any business, concentration is great until it’s not. And then it’s a huge problem for you.

Doug: Yeah, and, as you said, it doesn’t end well.

Robert: Yeah.

Doug: You see that, too, even with the traditional advertising channels being a lot more selective, and a lot more restrictive on what types of products. The one that comes to mind right now for me, that I see lots of people trying to fix, is CBD.

So, while CBD doesn’t have any illegal drug component to it, it’s not widely accepted, and most of the platforms are just a “no”, period.

Robert: Yeah. Well, that’s a great example of, you could just license the software and build your own program, and your partner program, and you don’t have to worry about anyone else. It’s very similar to what was gone on in programmatic, where it was all third-party networks. And now people are building their own in-house channels.

You can license any of this technology, and just do what you want to do with it, and build your own program. You don’t need people’s approval, you don’t need whatever. There are lots of different options around that.

Doug: A couple of questions, then I want to let you wrap up our day here. One question is, who’s one guest, based on your experience, what you think I should absolutely have to have on my podcast?

Robert: If you’re interested in this space, I would try to chase down Mike Jaconi, who’s the CEO of Button. They’re doing some really, really cool stuff in the mobile partner and performance space.

Doug: Okay, just making a note here. And where’s the best place for people to connect with you, Robert, to get some more information and see, hey, are you guys a fit, how to learn more about the industry, and to just take a look at what you’re doing?

Robert: Sure. Two places. If you want to check out our company, or you can Google Acceleration Partners, it might be faster.

We have a ton of free resources on our website. We try to educate everyone on, is affiliate right to you, when do you start? There are podcasts, all kinds of stuff that you can consume just to get smarter on the space.

And then, if it’s something we can help you with, then you know, please do. You can reach out there, and someone on the team would be happy to chat.

Separately, my writing and podcast, and a lot of the things that I do about culture and otherwise, are at And I also have something on there you can sign up for, called Friday Forward, which was an inspirational note that I started sending to my team four years ago, and now it spread, and there are about 100,000 people who get it every Friday around the world.

Doug: Wow. Yeah, cool, I saw that, and I did sign up for one of the white papers off of your website, in terms of affiliate and digital strategy.

So, yeah, I talked to-

Robert: There’s a lot of content on there.

Doug: There is.

Robert: We give away a lot of stuff. Again, we try to … we want people to get smart, and then, if we can help them, we can help them. But it’s not … you’re not going to fill that out, and your phone’s going to ring from Sales the next minute. That’s not how we do it.

Doug: No, and that’s what I noticed. There’s a lot of really valuable content. So, listeners, if you’re considering affiliate, and you’re looking for a really good resource just to get a good background, a good feel, I would really suggest going over to Acceleration Partners, and take a look through their website. There’s a ton of information there, and I think it serves two purposes. As you said, it helps to educate, and it helps to qualify or maybe disqualify people that aren’t ready, or this isn’t a fit. So they can go someplace, get some information. Say, “This is a good fit for me,” or maybe it’s not.

Robert: Yeah, we’re not for everyone. And look, if we’re not the right solution, then we’ll …. happy to refer someone who is.

Doug: Well, that’s super cool. I love what you guys are doing. And again, listeners, I had no idea that Robert and his company were managing Reebok. They’re just a partner on one of the health sites my wife writes for, and we’ve just enjoyed the partnership and how responsive that they’ve been, and the benefits, and all the great numbers of shoes that we’ve been buying from them over the years.

I just want to say thanks, Robert, for taking time out of your day, and sharing with our audience, and giving us some insight on what opportunities exist in the affiliate space.

Robert: Thanks, Doug, for having me. It’s been a lot of fun.

Doug: So, there you go, listeners. There’s another way to grow, strategize, leverage your company, your brand, sell more products without going to the big guys and this paying for advertising.

Think of taking advantage of partnerships with someone like Robert, where they can introduce you to publishers that get paid only when they perform and sell your products.

I hear over and over and over again, people say, “Hey, why won’t people work on a performance basis?”

Well, here’s a performance-based marketing channel that you can take advantage of.

I want to say thanks for listening to this episode. We look forward to serving you on our next episode.

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On the internet, there are people who sell stuff, and people who build audiences and communities. Affiliate Marketing or Partner Marketing is a way for them to get together.

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