Interview: Greg Bayer (Adknowledge)
We're very excited to present our 21st interview with Greg Bayer of Adknowledge. Greg Bayer is general manager of Adknowledge's Affiliate Division. He joined the company in January 2010 with more than 15 years experience in affiliate marketing and digital media. He began his career with barnesandnoble.com where he oversaw the launch of its affiliate network. There, he was responsible for driving the strategy and growth for one of the earliest and most successful affiliate programs on the web today. Greg has also worked for LinkShare, Sony, and Epic Advertising (fka AzoogleAds). 1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? How old are you? I’m a native New Yorker and have also spent some time on the west coast, but Brooklyn is home for now. As for my age, let’s just say I’m old enough to know better….now. 2. How long have you been in affiliate marketing and how did you get involved? I guess after 15 years, you could call me a veteran, having started out with Barnes & Noble many moons ago. While there, I launched their affiliate network on barnesandnoble.com and guided the strategy and growth for what is still one of the most successful affiliate programs on the web today. A later stint at Sony led me to manage the team responsible for launching their online digital bookstore, the e-commerce companion to the eReader. My affiliate career also included heading Product Development at LinkShare and culminated in the VP of Product Management at Epic Advertising (aka AzoogleAds) prior to joining Adknowledge in January 2010. 3. What has been your biggest success to date? If you saw our recent press release, we’ve realized some amazing gains only 6 months into our Hydra purchase. Both AM teams have been cross-trained and are now managing clients running CPC and CPA offers, and Compliance has been centralized and is providing a more efficient service. The final piece will be to align the platforms so Affiliates have one login to support either model, giving them access to combined reporting and campaign selection. We’ve successfully transitioned some existing accounts to run both offers and hope that as our systems are streamlined, even more will exploit this valuable opportunity. Not many networks have this feature, and we intend to be at the head of the class. 4. Tell us a little bit about Adknowledge and what you do over there? We are the largest, privately-owned online ad network and one of the leading players in the performance marketing landscape. My role is General Manager for the Affiliate division, where we provide a hybrid CPA-CPC model, using our AdStation and Hydra products to monetize traffic for the publisher community. We only bought Hydra back in June and are already seeing great results with many affiliates now using both offers to meet their ROI goals. 5. There are already so many advertising/affiliate networks out there. What makes Adknowledge different? Since 2004, we’ve been making great strides with our AdStation CPC offering, enabling our affiliates to receive industry-leading payouts from the wealth of exclusive creatives made available by our 10,000+ advertiser base. From our client survey earlier this year, we are clearly providing the highest revenues amongst all the networks they currently use and also producing eCPMs above industry standards. The acquisition of Hydra was a strategic one to fast-track us to becoming the network of choice for the Affiliate community, period. By bringing a CPA provider into the fold, not only have we provided a true one-stop shop, but it has enabled us to combine both our application vetting and take our Compliance efforts to the next level. Only those networks who can provide excellent coverage, a vast array of campaigns and first-class compliance will survive. 6. Do you offer biweekly or weekly payment? If so, how much does one have to make to qualify? We offer competitive payment terms depending on the affiliate and their volume. 7. Do you have any exclusive offers that other networks don't have? On the CPC side, we have tons of exclusive category-based creatives which continue to generate outstanding revenues for our affiliates. For CPA, many of our heavy-hitting brands have developed campaigns specifically with our affiliates in mind. Exclusive doesn’t necessarily mean the best, so we’re about quality and relevance too, plus a nice eCPM never hurt anyone. 8. Which offers are performing well on your network? Offer performance tends to be seasonal and is also often driven by the state of the economy. More recently, we’ve been experiencing success with Financial Services, Education and Home & Garden. 9. Which traffic sources prove to be the most effective for your top earning affiliates - E-mail, PPC, PPV, Facebook, Media Buying or any others? Email is the only channel available with our CPC offering and coincidentally is also the key revenue driver on our CPA campaigns. As we update our creatives and new advertisers come on board, we constantly strive to increase our activity on the other channels (search, display, contextual, co-reg, incent) and this remains a long-term goal to complement our email revenues. 10. What are the criteria for a marketer to be accepted at Adknowledge? How does Adknowledge prevent and handle fraud? Our admission requirements are standard, but we seem to naturally attract those super affiliates who have been in the industry for a while and are not afraid to be aggressive in their campaign selections. They want their AM (Account Manager) to be their champion, and this relationship is key to their continued success on our network. The Compliance team is growing and instrumental to enforcing the FTC guidelines to both advertisers and publishers alike. Fraud prevention and identification is a key component of our network infrastructure, so that our advertisers feel comfortable pushing forth top quality campaigns with industry-leading payouts. 11. For those who are interested in working with you and your advertising/affiliate network - What's the best way/time to reach you? New affiliates can sign up here http://www.adstation.com/public/login, or drop me an email at [email protected] if they have further questions. 12. In your experience, what are the three most critical elements of run a successful campaign? Firstly, know your audience; analyze your past data and see what worked well and produced the best response. Secondly, test, test and test some more. Just because a creative looks appealing, doesn’t mean it’s going to work well for your audience. Run a few tests and make sure you get some feedback from your AM too as they can provide you with insight from similar activity they have seen on the network. Lastly, eCPM is the most important metric. Don’t get overly excited by high CPCs or CPAs, your goal should be maximum revenues per campaign drop. Keep these in mind and you should be hitting your ROI sooner rather than later. 13. What's the difference between a Super Affiliate and an Average Affiliate? All affiliates have the desire, hunger and motivation to succeed as their own boss, but what takes one to the Super level is their willingness to go that extra mile. An affiliate at this stage has probably experimented with several networks and developed key relationships with AMs at a few, has made and lost money and learnt valuable lessons in between; most importantly, this type of affiliate is not afraid to try new things – campaigns, A/B testing, taking recommendations from their AM. As with anyone who excels in their chosen field, it’s about being innovative, taking risks and always being prepared for that next challenge. 14. What are the keys to building successful relationships between affiliates and advertising/affiliate networks? Simple, think of it as a marriage. Two parties working towards one goal – ultimate financial success. The ad network needs to have the right infrastructure (systems, advertisers, creatives, reporting, and compliance) for the affiliate to conduct their campaigns profitably and ensure that affiliates give them a continuous stream of traffic. There’s no such thing as total network loyalty, but being on a shortlist of preferred vendors is certainly achievable. 15. If you could change one thing about the online advertising/affiliate marketing industry, what would it be? I would wave my magic wand and dispel all the myths about the “dirty” nature of the affiliate industry. Early players in this game made their own rules, flaunted their success and sometimes came across as unscrupulous; but as we in the industry know, affiliate marketers are some of the smartest and most enterprising people in online advertising, and most know that they need to continue to be above board and compliant in order to sustainably grow their business. Adknowledge is fortunate to work with many of these businesses and continue to provide strong distribution and return to its advertisers. 16. What do you think about where the industry is going? Where Adknowledge may be going? What advice would you give to affiliates to keep up the pace? Consolidation has already begun and “survival of the fittest” is now the motto for networks everywhere. Our business has grown through key acquisitions which have complemented our product portfolio to the extent that we are now perceived as the ideal partner for Publishers, Advertisers and Consumers and our branding is being modified to reflect this. Affiliates need to be connected with a network that is innovative, has strong leadership qualities and can steer the industry towards a level playing field where hard work is rewarded with financial gain. 17. What are your goals in 2010? And how is the progress so far? In terms of revenue, our 2010 goals were aggressive and we’re pretty much on track. With the Hydra numbers now being produced, December should see us end the year on a high. 18. Give us a little glimpse into what a typical day in your life looks like. Pack the kids off to school then arrive at office with large coffee. Check the previous day’s revenues and look for any unusual activities (highlights or concerns, troubleshoot where necessary), team meeting with AMs, catch-up with individual department heads, check progress of critical activities. Grab lunch when I remember, read emails, prepare report for Executive Management briefing, and any other thing that needs fixing. Escape to subway with my eReader in tow….. Many thanks to Greg for sharing your time with us and for sharing some great insight tips here! Ps. If you are an affiliate marketer, AM or Network owner and are interested in answering a few questions about you, your network and affiliate marketing, please drop us a message.