Low entry prices and high performance are just two reasons why mobile marketers would be wise to harness affiliate marketing to amplify their offers. Affiliates also enjoy a high level of trust with mobile-first consumers who rely on their recommendations to make purchase decisions. Our host Peggy Anne Salz catches up with Erica Carter— a Mobile Hero recognized for her app marketing achievements–to get the inside track on the steps you can take to recruit the right affiliates and tailor incentives to drive results. Erica, who was recently at Ibotta, also discusses the importance of providing your affiliates the right ad creatives and measuring the impact.
And this is one of those series, one of those episodes, rather, in the series where we get the inside track on how you can grow your app from the UA experts because this is their daily job, they are amazing at it as well which is why they have achieved success that has earned them the title of Mobile Hero as chosen by Liftoff, a full service mobile app marketing and retargeting platform.
So, I will get to our Mobile Hero today, really pleased because we’re going to look at a different topic entirely, we have Erica Carter – she is an accomplished mobile marketer, of course a Mobile Hero as well, worked at companies including Ibotta. Erica, great to have you on the show today and of course your first time on a podcast as well, so great to have you.
Yeah, thank you so much, honoured to be here and super excited.
And I’m super excited to hear about the topic, but first I want to get our listeners to understand where you’re coming from because we’re going to be talking, listeners, about affiliate marketing and I think that goes back a lot to basically what you’ve been doing in mobile marketing up to this point. I mean, you’ve been at Ibotta, you’ve been interested in making deals but making deals valuable, not just sort of making deals that are pitches. So, maybe you can tell me about how you got into this in the first place.
So, it’s actually kind of a funny story.
I love funny stories, go ahead.
Affiliate program wasn’t on the performance marketing team, it was actually more of, let’s say the PR influencer side of things. We decided to change it up a little bit because affiliate marketing is performance-based, we transitioned it over to the performance team. I was a little excited but also kind of nervous since it’s a little different than just running digital channels but also still very excited. So, I kind of – affiliate marketing was just put on my plate but I think I’ve learned to love it and learned to find different things that make it a little bit different from mobile or digital, and it’s just I guess very different. I think I like it also because during that time, we also revamped our affiliate program so it’s also my little baby since I kind of started it from scratch, so I think that’s another reason why I sort of enjoy the affiliate marketplace because it is almost my little baby.
And as you said, it’s also not nascent, it’s your baby because you’re going to nurture it but we know this from online but I think that there’s something different going on in mobile. I mean, I’m not a mobile marketer, I’m a mobile analyst so I can just have the feeling for this but it just seems to me that, you know, it’s the evolution of going from influencer marketing, and we got very excited about it in mobile to begin with, right, because we had sort of like our YouTubers so we had that. But now we’re taking a step back and I think we’re revamping this for mobile, at least that’s the feeling I’m getting, that it’s going to be something we’re going to be talking about a lot. Do you get the same feeling or is just me being super optimistic and interested?
No, no, not at all, I think it's the same feeling. We’re in a generation right now that people are looking for influencers, affiliated is content blogs to kind of drive the purchase behaviors, so I think it’s also that similar uptake is going to help us as mobile advertisers. So, yeah, I think you’re exactly on the right track with that.
And so what’s the difference, because we got – I mean, I went to a lot of conferences where people got a little bit burned in the early days with the influencer marketing – it was really hard to track. Affiliate marketing feels more concrete, it feels more solid in a way because you’re not sort of like betting on a YouTuber that can come and go like a May fly unless I’m seeing it differently, but it feels like it has more to it and therefore could be more measurable.
Oh yes, for sure, everything that we do, our affiliate partnership is 100% measurable from all our MMP partners we can tell exactly what you can in any of the digital channels assuming you’re tracking in the right parameters but it is 100% performance-based and that’s how we also pay all of our affiliates as well.
So, we’re going to deep dive into some of the questions which is why I’m excited about this, I mean, you’ve even written a blog about this, like how to pick the partner, how to measure, some tips and tricks so I don’t want to pre-empt that entirely but I do want to have a feeling for if someone’s listening in saying, “Okay, what kind of mindset do I need for this? How excited should I be?” - it’s not too hard to get started in affiliate marketing in any case, I mean, what would you say to someone who’s maybe on the fence or just listening in, saying, “Yeah, I haven’t thought about that one in mobile marketing, I thought that was the realm of online”. What would you message to them be?
Yeah, I would say it’s something that is very inexpensive to start off with because, one, you could pay off a CPA, so it’s kind of a low risk. Another thing is you start to be that data-driven mindset, you start to use general best practices when it comes to choosing the right partners, what you’re going to pay off of and just analyzing the data overall. And one other portion of maybe why I like affiliate programs in general is just because there is a little bit of – I want to say a sales factor but you also have to be able to prove the value as you as an advertiser to that affiliate. So, there is just a lot of general legwork to get started off the board just because you have to be able to communicate that to a very different affiliate, how you are going to be able to help them make money as well.
So, I want to say those are the few things – it’s a low risk just because you pay off a CPA but also it does bring great quality - at my current position, we focused on a lot of the content driven affiliate partnerships and so that also just creates a lot of good valuable users coming in from our affiliate partnerships as well.
So, you’ve had experience of Ibotta which is certainly the type of company where this plays a role because it’s about using content, using affiliate marketing, using influencers to help me understand, you know, what’s available, what’s good for me, what are the offers and packages. Is this something that translates to a number of different categories of apps or is it really very, very retail-focused currently?
That’s a good question, I would say, that’s a good question – I think a lot of it is very retail-focused just because a lot of influencers and affiliates are going to help with that purchase behaviour, even myself, when I’m looking for whether it’s new clothes or new this or new that, I do look at some affiliates and influencers to help influence those decisions. So that’s a great question, obviously my experience has just been more in the retail space but I think it would also be just super interesting how works with other industries – I can see it also working maybe with finance, at banking, avenues as well – so maybe not just retail. Be interesting seeing what that looks like.
I’m thinking, you know, because content plays such a role now in marketing, it sort of just makes sense in a way that, you know, to understand from other people – even in travel or other verticals – you could just see that – I mean, at some level, it’s also because we’re looking at the reviews and the reviews are one thing, but we also know that sort of like they can be – shall I say manufactured, off the record – I’m seeing a lot about review problems and you know interest in reviews and maybe our trust is higher in affiliate marketers. Do you have that feeling?
Yeah, I think so and especially when it comes to maybe bigger purchases like you mentioned travel, hotels, just anything where you are going to paying a little extra money, a lot of that, a lot of affiliates give that addition of credibility towards your product which helps out tremendously.
So, I’m going to be asking you some questions later on in the show of course but just a start out, I think that people are getting excited about this, I know I am – I know I’m going to look into it but if you‘re just starting out, other than going to the affiliate marketing conferences that I used to go to when it was online and just think, “Oh, this is a very different world” – what would you say is sort of like the good first start to dip your toe into affiliate marketing if you haven’t already?
Yeah, I guess a few things – understand your CPA and what makes sense for your pay out to be. Second thing is you obviously have to find great affiliates that are going to create, have great value for you, good quality but also are going to be able to scale. So when it comes to just finding new partnerships, there’s a lot of different routes you can take. You can go ahead and join any kind of affiliate networks, whether it’s, let’s say, Impact Trade Deck, Commission Junction are a few that help whether it’s scaling and tracking as well, also reporting, also just keeping yourself organised.
Another thing that’s helped us as well is just creating best practices to communicate to a lot of your new affiliates. Sometimes when they join, maybe they aren’t sure how to present the value, what to say, so a lot of good examples also help. We can have affiliates join the program every day, you know, but if they’re not posting content, then you know it’s kind of no value to either partnership. So, helping facilitate that and giving them best practices, communicating – I would say weekly, if you don’t intend to do weekly, communicating bi-weekly, monthly because really it’s going to be making sure that the partners that you are working with are also going to be promoting yourself as well.
I’m just curious before we go to a break – do you need a lot of people to manage this or have you been doing this yourself, Erica? Is this a team effort or can you say, “I’ll put one person in charge of affiliate marketing and that’ll be enough”.
Yeah, I think you can just put one person in charge, you just have to make sure you have all the systems in place, kind of going back to tracking, communication and then also exploring and finding new partners. Sometimes it does take a little bit of work to go ahead especially if you get to a point where you have volume but you aren’t able to get over the hop-in kind of scaling significantly so I think one person but as long as you have the processes in place to automate as much as you can is what you need to do if you just do have one person.
Well this is fascinating and you have written a blog, “Seven Ways to Scale Your Affiliate Program” which we are going to go through, not maybe all seven ways, Erica, but quite a few so listeners, lots of reasons to stay where you are and we’ll be right back.
And we’re back to Mobile Presence. I’m your host, Peggy Anne Salz and our guest today, Erica Carter, accomplished mobile marketing, Mobile Hero and also a long track record working at companies including Ibotta. And we were talking before the break about affiliate marketing just at a high level, I understand you’re excited about it and passionate about it – I can see why because I can see it coming, the more we move to native advertising, content marketing, all of that, you need something more powerful to get the message across.
But, if you’re starting in this or thinking about advice that you’re offering, one is to understand your goals and you mentioned that earlier – just know your goals – but is there a shorthand here, a little bit of a tip to figure out what goal you need to be aiming for, is it like saying, “I’m going to pay this much and not more”, or what is it?
Yeah, I think it comes to whatever your main KPI is so at Ibotta, obviously we were going to make sure that individuals are purchasing with an app, so most of that time we tried to work with a CPA of that purchase event. So I want to make sure that obviously you’re working through that main KPI, that KPI that’s going to make you guys money. In addition, when we start – when we started with our affiliate program, we did start off on the lower side just because I think firstly it’s a lot easier to increase a CPA as opposed to going back and telling affiliates that “Oh, we actually had to decrease CPA”, plus it just gives that extra security just in case whether it’s like month two retention, just overall quality done further down the funnel isn’t idea. So I think those are a few just general high level points.
So, you said quality and of course that’s a big one, recruiting the right affiliates, the ones who have the quality, the ones who feel like there’s, you know, that it’s very solid and it’s not feeling sort of like hard sell or just that feeling, that used car salesman feeling is what I call it, you know, you want to keep clear of them. But it’s not always extremely obvious up front, are there any signs of good or not so good matches that you can share, some red and green flags that you’ve had – even your experience in this?
I think a lot of it just comes down to just looking at the blog, make sure that it’s a neat organised website, we’ve definitely come across individuals that have applied to our program and maybe just the visual aspect isn’t ideal or isn’t as professional. Another thing to look at is just take a look at a lot of their social media accounts, see how many followers they have on Facebook, whether it’s Instagram, the general volume of followers there, Twitter etc – you can get a general sense of potentially how much reach they could have as well.
So, those are a few good things to kind of take a look at when looking at affiliates – it’s just understanding that layer and website in general does play huge value for both of you guys, so making sure it’s a professional website I think helps as well.
And is this something you want to do on your own as a mobile marketer, you also mentioned some companies will help you – I mean, a little bit it’s like influencer marketing, the question was do you do this on your own, do you go through an agency that jacks up the price – how do you do this in the most effective way? I guess, how did you do it at Ibotta?
Yeah, for sure, so we use affiliate network- there’s a ton of different them, I kind of mentioned a few, CG Impact Radius but it’s a place for advertisers and publishers to meet and kind of find each other. So we definitely found a lot of good partnerships that way. A few different ways you can find is just set up Google alerts, we’ve done this with some of our just main competitors or just other companies in the industry that do affiliate marketing really well to kind of see where the overlap is and what publishers or content sites we can reach out to to also promote Ibotta as well.
Use the search, type in just general keyword search to see kind of what pops up, same thing whether it’s some main competitors or just other advertisers that are doing it really well to see where in addition can you find other partners to work with.
I’m just wondering, is there, you know, well, let’s put it this way – there was a time in influencer marketing in the very early days when it was like, just like, okay, the way you’re going to tell this is a clout score, that’s really going to date me right now, but I’ll leave that out there as a thought – there was a way to sort of like, there wasn’t actually a universal way to figure this out but there were some standards because it’s one to say, “Okay, this person’s coming up in my Google alert, or this person is a blog” and I’m looking at the Facebook numbers etc – but is there something that you use to sort of measure reach universally or is this something that every marketer needs to decide for themselves?
Yeah, there’s definitely some other third party platforms that can help with that – I’d have to double check the names, I don’t remember them off the top of my head but there’s definitely a few out there that will help out with that. I think personally we have the team in place to kind of find some different partnerships so we’ve chosen not to utilize though but a lot of it, to be honest, is sometimes very manual where you actually have to look at the website, make sure it looks good, double check the followers. So there is some manual processes in place when it comes to affiliate marketing especially when you could recruit a publisher and then ultimately they may or may not actually promote your product.
But it is a little bit of recruiting kind of goes back to feeling like you’re in sales a little bit because you’re going to communicate, reach out, make sure that you’re portraying of the partnership as well.
Communication – great topic because not only does it have to be absolutely crystal clear that there’s a match with your product and you’ve got the right person with the right reach and the right attitude, really – but then there’s another type of communication which is like how often you connect with them, how often you need to make certain that you’re consistent around questions around brand or new product launches or maybe there’s something that you want to promote and you want them to promote it for you, you know, some sort of limited offer or something like that.
So I guess the question is what is the best way to communicate and what’s the best cadence for really good results? What would you recommend?
So, we’ve seen that weekly works really well, we send out a weekly newsletter so our affiliates are expecting it, we’ve seen whenever we don’t send out a weekly, that it does affect volume. So I would definitely say weekly is ideal – if you can’t do it weekly, kind of going back to bi-weekly or monthly would work but we pretty much just have a standard template that we use sending out whether it’s a new product launch or just new products that have the best deals and send that out to our partners. Just making sure that we’re on top of mind for a lot of our partners.
And what about that really tricky question of brand, because that is something that needs to be really consistent, that’s why we have chief brand officers – it’s a really big deal and you also have this very interesting tension that I’m watching in the industry which is exciting because when there’s a tension or friction, there’s also like a little bit of new thinking and innovation – you know, when you think about performance marketers and brand marketers, they’ve got two different things they’re focused on – obviously performance is for both of them very important but you’ll get one who’s like very focused on performance and the other one’s like brand, this is not working with my brand.
Is that type of discussion here, do you feel like you have to bridge in addition to you being a performance marketer dealing with the affiliate marketer – how does brand come into that? Is it ultimately you check with them, they give you guidelines – how do you make certain that everyone is happy and everyone’s on the same page?
Yes, so a few different things we have done on our side. So, in terms of making sure that our partners are showcasing just our brand in general in the right way, we do have a brand booklet we send them, we do on occasion just double check our affiliates’ blogs and content to make sure that they’re portraying Ibotta in the best light. All our affiliates kind of going back to I guess brand versus performance, like I mentioned before, it’s all on a CPA basis where it is very direct response. Any partner that chooses not to run with our affiliate business, our partnership, there is an opportunity to do influencer marketing with us so there are different options to see what kind of makes sense for them and us as well.
So, there’s a few different routes you can take on that portion. And then also for any smaller, you know, whether it’s blog content sites, we also have a third option which we have a friend referral program where if someone wants to also promote Ibotta in general, then they could hypothetically use our referral program if it’s really small volume.
So, I’m not sure if that answered your question but...
No, it helps, it helps a lot. Absolutely. I was going to just touch upon the other question, you know, everybody wants to sort of understand what kind of sums of money are we talking about here? You might not want to go into that kind of detail but is there sort of a way to approach this that you’re incentivising your affiliates but you’re also – that everyone is sort of reasonably compensated and you are also feeling that you’re allocating your spend properly? Is there like a range, at least, if you can’t give me specific numbers?
A range? I mean, it kind of just depends on the advertiser how many partners that you’re working with so I don’t know if I could give a range. I think there’s a lot – too many factors involved for me to give a range.
But you would maybe say that, you know, new affiliates maybe incentivise them differently than maybe someone who’s up and running – would you say that you have to sort of segment how you work together with your affiliates?
For sure. So, whenever we start with new affiliates, we have a pretty low CPA just because less risky. And then once they are able to show overall, you know, good quality, then we do occasionally reach out to see, hey, if we offer this increase in CPA, how much additional volume – and then honestly vice versa, if we have a partner that isn’t showing us great quality, then we might reduce the CPA. So it all comes back to just overall best practice for digital marketing, great quality, you can pay a little more, lower quality, you can pay a little less.
We’ve done very different things where we have a bonus program one month where that’s all segmented as well when you are able to, let’s say we have a partner that hasn’t posted in a while and they used to have great quality and all of a sudden, quality or volume just is slowly dwindling – maybe reach out to see if there’s any increase, whether there’s an increase in CPA or just a bonus in general if they are able to reach a certain volume the following month.
So I think there’s a lot of incentives you could do either way, whether it’s a partner that has great quality, a partner that has so/so quality and a partner that has lower quality is a segmenting that CPA based off the overall performance.
So, a lot of flexibility there and we do have to go to a break right now, Erica, but I’m excited to hear about creatives and affiliates, so, again listeners, don’t go away, we’ll be right back.
And we are back to Mobile Presence. I’m Peggy Anne Salz, we have today Erica Carter, mobile marketer, Mobile Hero with a long track record including Ibotta. And we’ve been talking about affiliate marketing which is the first time in five years of doing this podcast, Erica, that I’ve ever touched upon this topic so I’m excited because I think that we’re at the beginning of something that’s probably going to be huge.
Yeah, super exciting.
So, do you feel a bit like a pioneer on, you know, or something on the edge here? Is there something about your experience in mobile marketing, we talked about how you got interested in affiliate marketing in the first place, but something that tells you this is where we might be innovating or looking to make this work better as an industry, maybe some low hanging fruit here perhaps?
Yes, for sure. I think it kind of goes back to how a lot of people in general especially the new generation is looking at what to do, where to buy stuff, how to travel, just any habit in general is influenced by social whether it’s influencers, blogs, content websites – but they are looking for certain individuals to tell them what to purchase next, where to travel to. So I definitely think that we are, you know, at the ground of where affiliate marketing can take itself. So, yes, absolutely.
And of course we have the mobile channel which makes this, you know, automatically, you know, more personal, more relevant and relevancy is also really important here for the creatives, you know? Impressions count literally, first impressions will count here. It was important in online but it’s like super critical in mobile and apps. So, what are your thoughts around just making certain that your creatives are fresh and refreshed and consistently relevant, consistently a good fit with the app and the campaign? What are some top tips you could provide?
Yes, so a few things - we use very similar creative that we use in any of our digital campaigns so that they are putting all our affiliate partnerships are putting the right creative out there whether it’s making sure there’s a CTA, making sure that you’re putting the correct value proposition, so I think that’s one thing that’s very important.
In addition is just being able to refresh your creative, making sure that let’s say your app has an update, ideally sending all that new creative to our partnerships as well so that whether it’s a new UI screen, new colours, what not, I think that’s also very important. What ultimately it comes down to making sure that creative that you’re still utilizing the best creative for any and all affiliate partnerships as well.
Should they all be completely similar or do you do sort of some different for different types of influencers, different types of outlets – I guess the question is, the same as in AB testing with creatives overall in campaigns, you want to get to that golden middle where you’re not like overdoing it because then you’ll become very confused – is there like a nice golden middle with the number of creatives you should have in action at any one time or how often you should be refreshing them?
That’s a great question. I would say if you can refresh your creative monthly, it just also gives that extra leverage of when you’re communicating to affiliates. It’s like, “Hey, we have this awesome new creative that you guys can utilities”, and then what happens, they’re going to create more content for you and ultimately provide, you know, better or more volume. So I would say at least monthly to try to send out new creative.
We do send out any variation of sizes whether it’s video, we have, you know, native sizes, we have typical banner sizes, we do have a variety of creative that our partners can use – even seasonal creative or new product announcement creative. So we do have a variety of different options. We try to communicate to partners kind of the top ones or the best ones to use but it’s kind of up to that partner to see what makes sense for them, what kind of content that they are creating.
And once a month makes sense because you don’t want to overdo it, some of these people are just themselves in business and if it’s overkill, it’ll be like, “I’m uploading and updating so much, I can’t really get to my blogging” so it does make sense on a monthly business. I mean, we agree that this is going to be big because it makes perfect sense, you know, we’re talking so much about native, we’re talking so much about content marketing, I’m talking to different app marketers here, you know, who are thinking about, “How do we content and blogs and interesting stuff to make our app more interesting?” So I do see the fit, I see it as a mobile megatrend potentially in mobile marketing – how do you see that or what are the other big trends on the horizon? I mean, you are a mobile marketer, this is what you do, maybe there’s something else that you’re almost equally excited about?
Yes, I would say just overall attribution especially when it comes to general – let’s say people-based attribution so that you can actually follow a user’s journey throughout not just of course mobile but when they’re on their desktop as well. I think every mobile marketer will love for us to kind of nail that down so that we’re effectively able to measure just overall performance in general. So, I would say that’s probably one of the ones I’m excited about and hopefully that’s something that we can hopefully get closer and closer to as mobile marketers.
It’s something I’d like to explore because attribution is evolving, it’s not just about saying, “Okay, this is the right source and this is the value for that source” but you’re able to do a lot more with it. I mean, could you just end on a little bit of like why attribution is like such a big deal for you, what do you see on the horizon, how it might evolve or how it might be a topic that we have that you come back and talk about, who knows?
Oh yeah, for sure. I think, I mean, a lot of advertisers right now just use last click attribution, honestly, I’m not sure if that’s even the right way but when it comes to overall understanding the user journey, where to ultimately attribute the value for each source that they come across before they end up making the purchase – I think we’re going to be able to have more effective campaigns and as mobile marketers, performance mobile marketers, that’s ideal – spend less for more quality. So, it’d be great if we’re able to figure out that portion so we are analysing overall performance of our channels, you know, kind of full user journey.
And speaking of the journey, that’s exactly what you are on, you are going to embark on another chapter of your career, going to go to another company, maybe come back again also soon to talk about that. But in the meantime, how can our listeners stay in touch with you, Erica? They might say, “Hey, you know, just like myself, we’ve never heard about affiliate marketing on Mobile Presence – time to change that, we want more of it” – who knows? How would they stay in touch with you, maybe even check out other blogs or other things you’re sharing?
Yeah, for sure. I would say best place is LinkedIn, Erica Carter, currently under Ibotta but going to be transitioning to a new company soon, but Erica Carter, and hopefully you’ll be able to find me super easily.
Okay, and we’ll have those in the show notes of course. And we’ll have more about you because you have a page and listeners you can check it out, read up on it over at the Mobile Heroes series at heroes.liftoff.io – Erica has her own dedicated page over there.
And if you want to keep up with me throughout the week or find out more about how you can be a guest or sponsor on Mobile Presence, then you can email me, firstname.lastname@example.org, Mobile Groove is where you can find my portfolio of content marketing and app marketing services.
And that, my friends, is a wrap of yet another episode of Mobile Presence. You can check out this and all earlier episodes of our show by going to webmasterradio.fm or you can find our shows on iTunes, Stitcher, Spreaker, Spotify and iheartRadio simply by searching Mobile Presence. So until next time – remember - every minute is mobile, so make every minute count. We’ll see you soon.