Actionable Insights – February 13, 2024
Episode Fourteen: All About the Parnerships
The Two-Way Street of Mutually Beneficial Relationships Driving Brand Success
Nikki Yorgiadis, Head of Gen3’s Publisher Development team is the special guest for Episode 14. Nikki brings over seven years of experience in the industry, with a background in academic research in advertising and marketing. With her expertise, Nikki sheds light on the evolution of affiliate marketing and the crucial role of relationships in driving results.
Throughout the episode, Nikki emphasizes the significance of relationship building in affiliate marketing. She stresses the need for transparency, reciprocity, and genuine rapport in fostering long-term partnerships that benefit both brands and publishers.
The conversation covers emerging trends in the affiliate space, including the rise of AI-driven technologies and card-linked offers. Nikki provides insights into how these innovations are reshaping affiliate strategies and opening new avenues for brands to engage with consumers.
Hello, and welcome to our latest episode of Gen3’s Actionable Insights, where we provide performance marketing and affiliate strategies for driving your business results.
Today’s episode is ‘All About the Partnerships: The Two-Way Street of Mutually Beneficial Relationships Behind Brand Success.
So welcome, Nikki (Yorgiadis), from the Gen3 Publisher Development team. Nikki, I would love for you to introduce yourself and tell us a bit of why anyone should listen to you today.
Of course, of course. Well, first, thank you for having me. I’m Nikki, as the introduction clearly stated. I head up Gen3’s Publisher Development department.
I’ve been now in the industry for, I want to say, well, seven, over seven years or around seven years. Was always on the agency side. So came from another agency. And I’ve been now through our acquisitions from Oak Digital now to Gen3 in kind of my journey.
And before that I did a lot of academics, so within my master’s degree, I kind of focused a lot on advertising and then kind of did my shift into the marketing space and affiliate marketing itself. So, I had a bit of an academic journey to get here.
That’s great though, lots of knowledge to be shared. And so how do you explain, tell us a bit about how you explain to what you do and what we do here at Gen3 to people outside of the industry.
Oh, it’s always, that’s always a fun one. I have that question a lot and I think I can simplify it in the best way. But what I usually ask first and foremost is do you do online shopping?
And typically, the question or the answer is yes, I do online shopping. I say, okay, perfect. If you’ve gone to a website or you’ve read a review or if you have inputted a coupon code or if you get cashback from the likes of Rakuten or other cashback or points. Essentially that is affiliate marketing and that relationship that you’re clicking through and then purchasing to get some type of reward.
That’s what we manage those partnerships for. And they’re all set up between brands and where you searched or that you went to that site from. And I manage a lot of those relationships to scale opportunities at the agency because I’m now no longer client facing. I head up this department.
So, that’s typically how I kind of flow it. I usually ask a few questions. And then I’ll make my way into what I do here at Gen3 specifically now to kind of work on all those partnerships.
Excellent, thank you. And I agree, I think I often use the coupons and cashback examples and people are like, oh yeah, yeah.
We always have an icebreaker here at our Actionable Insights podcast. If you were to create a sandwich, what would it be and where would you distribute or sell it?
Alright, that’s interesting. I do like my food quite a bit. So, I’d have to say I’d probably put some type of Greek spin on it. And I’m kind of dappling. So, I like pasta and I like and I’m Greek. So, I’ll take two parts that I can kind of think of. Maybe I do a spin on a grilled cheese with feta. Probably put some honey in there, oregano. Yeah, maybe that type of spin.
The other thing if you if I want to go really, out there is maybe some type of pasta outside to like a Bolognese or some type of meat sauce in a sandwich format of some sort, but the easier one might be the feta, the Greek grilled cheese, distribute it maybe in some sort of pop-up to start and kind of get some traction going that way.
I live in Toronto, so, foodie scene can be sometimes interesting, but maybe a pop-up to kind of get traction. Then maybe by the water, by the lake might be the best. And then hop at some like Greek festivals or bring in the culture across.
I love that. We’ve had variations of grilled cheese in the past, but never the feta, honey, and oregano mix. I definitely want to go try to make that myself.
You’ve had a long career, as you mentioned, in affiliate marketing, and so how have you seen the evolution of the affiliate, the publisher, brand, advertiser relationship, and what has really stood out to you over the evolution in that time?
Yeah, I think I’ve seen quite a bit of a shift, and it really comes down to, I think, what brands are looking for and the types of publishers that they either want to work with or kind of how the funnels evolved a little bit.
There’s such a big push with loyalty partners and then you get your influencer kind of flow to video and content creators and blogs to review. So, I think you just you see the shift kind of forming amongst the type of publishers that kind of become hot or that brands really want.
And then you see a lot of value go to, at one point it used to be a lot of content, blogs, websites, and then you start to see the shift to like content creators. And now with the emergence of so many different social media platforms as well, I think you see kind of a shift.
And then the last one’s probably a lot of the AI, which will probably come up as we, as we continue to talk, but I think a lot of a tech kind of emergence again, resurging within our partners.
That’s a great answer. So, one of the things that we were talking about ahead of this call was that as we we’re working on our award entries over the past few months, one of the biggest contributors that the account managers we’re bringing up was really the value that your team brings. And finding the right publishers to match with the brand goals and the target audiences.
So, tell us more about your team and kind of the goal of the team and how our clients really benefit from the value that you bring.
Yeah, of course. It’s so great to hear. And I think that’s where a lot of stuff come into play. So, a lot of the value that we bring is kind of the behind-the-scenes work. As I had mentioned before, we’re not a client facing team.
We’re very much focused on publishers, whether it’s finding new publishers, being able to align the right publishers and niche publishers with very specific brands or specific verticals, where they really kind of excel in how they promote.
So, I think that’s kind of a big portion and really being able to have a dedicated teamwork behind the scenes in a lot of these aspects is helpful because when you’re on the account management side, you’re focusing on your clients and it becomes very much what can I do for my client, which is so important and that’s the whole purpose.
But to have a team kind of take a bird’s eye standpoint and be able to kind of evaluate everything from that top line down is super, super valuable. So, I think that’s where we really shine and really trying to be able to arm our account leads with all the necessary information, they need to be able to kind of kick off and get a really good start on a partnership is really, really important. So, I think that’s where we kind of really shine and as a team.
And so, what do you love the most about leading the team and the initiatives that your team leads?
Yeah, so I have to say, I think it’s definitely my passion for relationship building. I really love communicating with everybody, learning what different partners do, how we can work together, and really building those relationships that withstand the industry.
Conferences are such a great area where you just see everybody kind of reconnect and we’re such a relationship-driven Industry. So, I think my passion is very much building those and having that rapport, yeah, and having that rapport, I think, for the most part is what I personally really love and value.
And I think a lot of people in our industry will say a very similar thing, where we all know each other at some point.
And it sounds like through those relationships, you’re also able to kind of stand top of the new emerging publishers and the industry trends.
Correct, correct, yes.
So, that is probably the other main part of what’s really exciting is that you’re able to really see what’s continuing to grow or who’s new, who’s emerging, who’s kind of brought in maybe a new aspect of themselves as a publisher, what they do.
So, I think that really adds to kind of a testament of not only are we behind the scenes being able to work and really build these relationships, but we’re able to… to kind of take a viewpoint of what’s new, what’s coming into play, who’s new in the networks, who’s starting to really emerge, even within the agency as well. So yeah, it’s a really exciting time because there’s always something going on and there’s always something new and exciting to kind of tap into.
I know you touched on this a bit but tell us more about what you see as the most important aspects of your department, especially when, as you were saying, things are becoming a bit more AI-driven.
Yeah, I think really being able to kind of hit what is niche or niche partners and being able to kind of align them to different clients of ours or be able to scale the partnership across more brands.
A lot of times we see maybe a publisher working with maybe one client and then being able to kind of expand that out and be able to give that opportunity and foster those relationships and really build on them I think is extremely, extremely valuable.
The emergence of AI is a really interesting one, Kerry. And it’s fascinating because algorithms have always been around. And to kind of hear always this kind of new buzzword, but there is a different learning to AI that’s emerging, but you’re seeing it with a lot of different partners, a lot of tech partners, there’s even a lot of content partners using AI.
So, it’s a really interesting dynamic as it’s kind of evolving in this in the space for sure.
I love how you’re talking about the relationship aspect and how important it needs to be a partnership and a reciprocal relationship to make sure that it’s truly mutually beneficial.
So, share a bit more about kind of how you foster that longevity and making sure the personal touch is always there.
That’s something that I’ve always valued before even this industry. It’s just been something that has kind of been at the core of how I operate. And I think that’s something that’s been very valuable coming into an industry that is extremely relationship driven.
And I think a really interesting kind of anecdote or conversations that are coming up a lot is the fact that because we’re, so relationship driven, our affiliate partnerships is another… We’re basically in tangent with partnerships and performance marketing and our partners, not just our affiliates.
That terminology is always in how we talk. And I think a really big aspect is that you need to continue these relationships and you need to build them because it’s not just a one-way street. It’s reciprocal, just like our friendships, just like our relationships. It’s all relationship driven.
So, that’s how I personally go into a lot of how I lead the team. How I go into all my meetings with partners. I really like to be transparent, but really try and build a very genuine relationship because we’re gonna be working together for hopefully a long term and I think that’s how a lot of people need to think about their partnerships for their brands because our partners or our affiliates, they don’t also want a one-time or a one-off campaign.
They wanna build a long-lasting partnership as the term states. They want that partnership as well with brands. So, I think a lot of it is maintaining that longevity, really building relationships.
And I had an industry friend tell me recently, and I think it was also on a panel, how she switched over to the publisher side of things, where she used to be at agencies. And for her, the most interesting thing that she’s seeing is the lack of that relationship building, and that a lot of times it’s not reciprocal.
All they want as a publisher is to have a very reciprocal relationship, a really genuine relationship, not kind of blanket statement. They really want to work with teams, really understand what a brand wants, how a brand can work for the long-term.
So, I think that’s how we have to, to kind of go into the industry a lot now is, is taking it a little bit more as this is a joint relationship, not a one-way street. And I think it that’s super, super important and kind of everything.
And I know from what we’ve heard from your partners and from the account managers, that’s definitely a strength and value that you bring to Gen3 and all of our clients.
I know we were at Affiliate Summit West last month, and you had a very full dance card meeting with a lot of new and established publishers. For the publishers out there that work with us or really want to work with us, tell us a bit about some of the questions that you ask them and how do you identify if they’re going to be a good fit for our portfolio.
Yeah, of course. I love how you mentioned that. As everybody knows or who’s met me in person and listening or watching, I do get a full schedule and I try to meet with as many people as possible.
I think the most important thing that I usually go into a lot of my meetings, whether it’s existing or new, is really try and identify what’s new or how are you operating within the industry and in the affiliate space.
Any emerging, whether it’s emerging tech or emerging something new within how you’re operating. A lot of times we do go into conversations about transparency, incrementality.
I think that’s something that every account manager, every agency has on their mind, at least that’s something super important for us. So, we usually have those discussions on those aspects and then it usually leads into what type of verticals work really well and we kind of discuss some clients and the best way to more scale the opportunity across the agency with certain steps that we enact on our side.
It’s a very kind of systematic meetings where we really kind of go over everything from the top line of what’s new and important.
And then today when the brands are more and more interested in the compliance and preventing fraud, tell me a bit about what you’re looking at in terms of transparency and measurement for incrementality and what our expectations are.
Yeah, reporting, additional reporting, more transparency into where campaigns or how campaigns are progressing, proceeding, I think is a really large one, usually kind of getting more information on how we can work more closely with brands on getting or with publishers to get that additional supplemental information for our brands, especially in those campaigns.
A lot of times to the audience, new-to-file rates the engagement because a lot of times, you know, a lot of our clients are looking for new-to-file customers increasing their LTV. So, a lot of times understanding the audience of a publisher too, and where that kind of sits within the realm can help with incrementality conversations.
But I’d say compliance is a really large one as the biggest concern is not to onboard a partner that could potentially bring in fraudulent transactions.
So again, you met with a lot of publishers, and you’ve been evaluating a lot of publishers over the past year. So, what are the trends or emerging types of publishers that you’re seeing the most recently?
Oh yeah, that’s a lovely question. Because as we spoke earlier, there’s been so many trends even in a short period of time. But I’d say most recently, a lot has to do with tech partners, AI being brought into the mix as well within that kind of realm. And, CLO, I think are probably the two biggest.
There’s obviously some other supplemental where you’re seeing more… more either like media buying or publishers that are doing some supplemental to general marketing campaigns that are coming into the space.
But I’d say I think AI coming in with technology has been probably the largest. And then CLO is really expanding as kind of a tangent affiliate opportunity.
Yeah, definitely. I know we’re seeing that a lot with a lot of the new meetings that you’ve been setting up.
And so, we mentioned AI a bit and how it’s changing the publisher offering. You want to share a bit more about your POV on how that’s going to change and the value or watch outs.
Yeah, so I think we brought this up when we were prepping some of our conversations, but I’m on the side to be a little bit of a skeptic only coming from my background and a lot of my academic side actually probably comes into play a little bit where algorithms have been around for so long.
And a lot of times I think AI is just a continuation of algorithms and it does still contain algorithms that are machine learning. And obviously that machine learning is causing it to develop and create that AI.
I think the most fascinating that we’re all witnessing now is the like picture AI and Chad GPT kind of taking over content creation or just the realm in which we can even imagine things, which is so fascinating.
I think there is a positive though. I’m not just a skeptic. I think that it’s super, super valuable. And I think it’s just the buzzword that’s kind of changing and you’re hearing that a lot, but there’s some super valuable aspects to it.
And I think any partner that you wanna work with, you want them to be learning in some way, because that’s how your campaigns are gonna grow.
So, when you think of technology partners that are using more AI or using their algorithms and developing their algorithms, you want that in a partner, because that’s how you’re gonna grow your campaigns out.
So, your on-site technology partners, If they’re utilizing campaigns to create better strategies of how your customers are using your site It’s actually more valuable than just using the widget that has a general pop-up, for example.
You want to work with a partner that’s going to learn your audience, be able to create better flowing campaigns that might not actually anger a potential customer. So, I think that’s a really interesting part that’s coming into play, or some of the tech partners, tapping a little bit more into ChatGPT for potentially some of their campaigns as well can be super interesting.
That also leads to where not even on a tech side, but content partners using something similar, creating AI generated content or being able to kind of use this aspect to manipulate some parts of marketing is really, really interesting.
And I think we’re gonna see more of it. I don’t think we’re; I think we’re on the tip of the iceberg when it comes to AI conversations, and it’ll be really interesting to see how every partner in the space will utilize it in some way. And I think they already are.
So, I have a lot of thoughts on it, but I think it’s really, really interesting. And all we’re gonna keep seeing is brands wanting AI partners or understanding more of how AI works.
And I think it’s everybody understanding in what way is AI being utilized, because it could be as simple as maybe they’re just evolving their algorithms that they were using before, or they’re using more machine learning, or there’s more learning that’s created some automated stuff within a partner.
So, I think it’s really, really interesting, and I’m excited to see where it’s gonna go, because I think it’s only gonna help certain partners and certain campaigns.
Cautiously optimistic at the future here. So, you mentioned CLO or card-linked offers. So, tell us a bit more about card-linked offers and kind of the difference between other traditional affiliate partners.
Yes, so card-linked offers has become quite huge in the space. I’d say there’s a lot of different partners emerging really, and you’re seeing a lot of them work with similar partners. Where the difference comes into play is that affiliate marketing runs through the affiliate networks and you’re on a last-click model for the most part, but you’re always going to have that click through from a journey and then there’s going to be a sale.
But with CLO, that abbreviation stands for card-linked offers. So, really what that entails is being rewarded by the orders on a credit card of some sort.
And they sit outside of the affiliate networks, obviously within emerging industry trends, there’s a lot of conversations of how that can kind of come into the affiliate space more seamlessly, but typically, they’re working with a lot of banks, financial institutions, you’re gaining a lot of access to millions and millions of cardholders because you don’t need to go to a website and then click through to check out.
If you’re working with one of these partners and someone purchases, maybe they see an extra increase in cashback, they’ll purchase, and the order will be linked with the credit card itself.
So, you have access to millions and millions of users. Those campaigns can kind of access so much data within just the how someone, let’s say like myself uses their credit card and where do I shop more often or the types of stores that I shop maybe more most often at, for example.
So, it’s really fascinating, but there are caveats. And although it’s very sought out because a lot of these partners work with financial institutions or banks, there’s a lot of regulations in place, which means that there’s sometimes minimum requirements for a brand to even work with these partners because of volume and cost associated with working with these types of partners.
So, I think it’s a very fine line right now between, it’s sometimes not the most accessible for every merchant like regular affiliate marketing partners, but on the flip side, it can be extremely supplemental as an offering.
There’s a lot of conversations to carry around, double dipping. But a lot of times the CLO partners will see there’s not too much of a double dipping, but sometimes you do see someone using a coupon for that same order, for example.
So, I think it’s a fine line of how it’ll develop, but typically they don’t see too much of a double dipping in the industry at the moment.
And so, you had talked about the because they have that data, it’s a good fit for lapsed shoppers or retention campaigns. So, what types of brand advertisers or when should brand advertisers and affiliate managers look towards card-linked offers?
Definitely, if a Card linked Offer partner could accept your brand, I think at that point it is a good opportunity because that again, almost if we go back to our conversations of partnerships, that partner, that CLO partner is establishing that we can see potential in this relationship.
So, at that point, you already have somewhat of a signal that you should have probably an ROI positive campaign. It should be, you should be set up for success in some way.
I think is like an overall statement. So, if you’re approved into a program, that’s your first step or your first line. Making sure your brand does have the budget because a lot of times with the performance aspect to CLO, it’s gonna cost more because the volume hopefully should be there, but your return on ad spend as well should be there.
So again, I think it’s setting up the right expectations, but understanding that there are campaigns working with these partners that, as you mentioned, not only, can you do incrementality and new-to- file customers, but you can tap into potentially retention campaigns where you can see from a card holder, I haven’t shopped at a certain merchant in a year.
Maybe if you boost the cash back for users that haven’t shopped with you for a year, you might regain their purchases, their sales.
It might be more lucrative or attractive. So can-do campaigns like that, new to file campaigns. Even retention campaigns of your most active reward, maybe a bit less or a random increase, or there’s just a lot of ways that you can segment different audiences or different customers of yours.
Potentially even competitor or they shop a lot at a certain vertical, maybe you could tap into this audience that could be in an in tangent. So, there’s a lot of interesting data that can come from it within those campaigns that usually when you work with a CLO partner, you can try and strategically place a lot of what you’re doing when you’re working with those partners.
So, it’s a very, if your brand again can be approved or meet certain parameters, that’s where it’s really can be a really great supplemental addition to your overall affiliate program.
Great, thank you.
And so, we had talked a bit about, we’ve talked about what’s new with AI-based publishers and card-linked offer-based publisher partners. What do you think is next for the more traditional affiliate publishers? The content-based partners?
So, I think content’s gonna take maybe a bit of a shift to AI as well as obviously promotional aspects. I think it’s safe to say that we’re all savvy shoppers nowadays, we all shop online. Really savvy is probably the best way to say it. We’re all savvy shoppers.
So, I think everything will kind of evolve a bit to kind of match that and probably more of a visual, of maybe a visual trend as well.
I think people’s attention spans are shortening. And it’s just the way that we consume a lot of our digital media nowadays with even the emergence of TikTok and what Instagram is kind of shifting to Facebook with their algorithms, prioritizing video content for people to see within the algorithm.
So, I think generally that flow is probably gonna shift to a bit of AI or visual. Content will kind of probably take a bit of a shift amongst even from mass media down to blogs, you’re probably going to see maybe some interesting uses of AI mixed with maybe more visual content.
I think that’s where we’re really going to kind of see the flow of affiliate. And I do think that tech partners are probably going to become more important in a program. And I’ve always been an advocate of our technology partners.
With the retention span of people, with how savvy shoppers are. I think if you get a shopper on site, you do not want them to leave. And I think those partners are going to be your best line of defense, really.
So, I think that also will have to be kind of a trend that’s going to follow suit with everything else because really our attention spans are lessening for the most part. So, I think that’s where the trend is definitely gonna go.
You’re gonna see even like TikTok. I wanna say TikTok more. I’m not at the age that I use TikTok personally, but I think we’re gonna see kind of some type of shift there how it operates and really a lot of partners trying to replicate that aspect as well.
So, Nikki, this has been awesome. I love tapping into your knowledge and expertise and I know everyone who’s listening or watching the video is learning something today.
But what would be your actionable recommendation or advice that you could give our audience for something they could do today to improve their programs based on everything we covered today?
Oh, of course. Thank you, first and foremost.
I think my biggest advice is relationship building. Come talk to us, for the most part, I’d say. But I really think that I’ll say really keeping in top of mind your relationships across the board. It’s always a two-way street.
You want to build something that’s going to last and not be a short-term kind of strategy. So, I’d say come talk to us. keep on building those relationships.
Great, well thank you and thank you for your partnership across Gen3, we’re lucky to have you.
So, great, thank you so much, Nikki, and hopefully we can have you back again soon.
Oh, of course, I had such a wonderful time. It’s always great talking, Kerry. So, thank you so much.