Can you explain why you think there has been a shift in the US market from affiliate marketing to performance marketing and highlight the key differences?
I believe the term ‘affiliate marketing’ has developed a slightly negative reputation over the last few years and that people want to move away from this. There are some incredible internet marketers who know how to capture and engage an audience, use multiple touch points, increase conversion channels and do it all with integrity and solid marketing skills. Affiliate marketing today is all-encompassing. It includes search, social, mobile, etc. As a business model, it touches every facet of online and offline marketing and since it is completely performance based, it's quite understandable why the industry is broadening into ‘performance marketing’.
How fast are changes to make performance marketing more professional in the US happening and how are people responding to the changes?
SB: I think people are absolutely embracing the change from ‘affiliate marketing’ to ‘performance marketing’ in a positive light. The involvement of the Performance Marketing Association and others in the space who are evolving the industry toward better practices, benchmarks and education, are bringing a new level of expertise, transparency, accountability and professionalism that didn't exist before. New conferences such as Affiliate Management Days and Performance Marketing Insights, and education platforms such as Affiligate.org, are bringing training to a new level so both affiliates and affiliate managers can benefit. The process is not as fast as we all hope, but we are absolutely moving in the right direction.
What are the top performance marketing strategies that US publishers should focus on and what strategies appear to be fading out/are no longer relevant today?
SB: I wouldn't say strategies are fading out as much as we are seeing expanding opportunities. How do you put a higher value on search, email, social and video for example when they are all important and effective? Rather than replacing efforts, affiliates are evolving to become more all-encompassing and savvy in more areas. That being said, social, mobile and video commerce continue to be an area of focus for many, as they are more engaging than traditional marketing methods - such as natural search or traditional PPC strategies. Although those too are still important to the overall marketing mix as well. Things that are easy to get into and are free for affiliates are things like video marketing via YouTube and social network marketing via the various social channels such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn.
How important is it for merchants in the affiliate management space to be educated and trained and what are the key aspects they should focus on/learn about?
SB: It is absolutely essential. Not just important, but 100% imperative. That is the entire reason we focus so much time and effort on education and training in this space. I have two businesses that were created with the sole purpose of doing this. I speak at shows around the world because of this. I teach at the Online Marketing Institute and The School of Internet Marketing because of this. I blog and guest post because of this. I am an active member of the PMA's Industry Advancement Council because of this. There are tens of thousands of programs out there, most of which have affiliate managers (or no affiliate managers at all) who are new, struggling and unaware of the challenges, issues and best practices in this industry. It's not their fault. Like me, many people get thrown into the position to either sink or swim and have been left to figure it out on their own. In the meantime, millions of dollars are being spent in the wrong ways or on lost opportunity cost. Good affiliates are frustrated. Bad affiliates and affiliates who use less than ideal practices to reign over programs with uneducated merchant management teams. It's a personal mission of mine to commit as many personal resources as I can to correct this. This is a fabulous industry and has infinite opportunity. Education and training are key to pushing it in the right direction and I am excited to be part of the evolution of education and training in this space.
What key performance marketing advice would you offer to newcomers in the industry?
SB: Educate yourself. Speak to industry leaders in the space. We don't bite and we are fountains of knowledge. Even if we can't help we will point you in the right direction. Have a plan, get your feet wet but don't assume you know everything out the gate. I have been in this industry for almost 10 years and I still learn new things every day. Get involved - the more you are involved and practice, the faster you will learn. Attend events and meet people in person. Open your mind and be creative but understand the technical side of things as well. And above all, if you are passionate about it, don't give up. It's an incredibly exciting industry filled with unimaginable opportunity. With time, patience, focus and persistence you will succeed.