Interview with Geno Prussakov on Affiliate Management

Geno_PrussakovJust in time heading into AM Days San Francisco that is happening on the 19th-20th March 2014, I was able to get some of Geno Prussakov‘s time for a interview about his views on affiliate management but also the upcoming AM Days San Francisco event but also AM Days London happening in May 2014.  Geno is a successful and well known affiliate marketer, a well published author and blogger but also founder of outsourced affiliate program agency AM Navigator.  If that’s not enough he is also the organiser behind Affiliate Management Days a successful global conference series focused on affiliate management.  AM Days is run annually in San Francisco, and London and is designed specifically for helping affiliate managers responsible for their companies affiliate marketing operations and strategies become more successful.

1.        What is the biggest change you saw in affiliate management in 2013?
While I could (and should) mention the pleasant tendency for advertisers to invest more time and money into the education of their affiliate program managers, it wasn’t “the biggest change” of the year, in my opinion. The biggest one was the fact that some of the top brands in the market started shifting their focus from network-based affiliate programs to in-house platforms, migrating their program support and management respectively.

First, after Google’s announcement about “retiring Google Affiliate Network effective July 31, 2013″ [source] we  noticed how a number of top brands migrated not to Commission Junction (CJ) or Rakuten LinkShare, but to solutions that bring program the management in-house. In such a manner, Threadless, ForMeToFlowers, Quidsi, OTC, AbeBooks all migrated over to ImpactRadius and are now exclusive to this platform, as far as I understand.

Then in August of 2013 in addition to their CJ-based affiliate program, Groupon announced the launch of Groupon Partner Network, which similarly to eBay “Partner Network” really meant an in-house-based affiliate program for Groupon. Finally, literally a day later, a similar news came from Apple. They chose to part ways with LinkShare and TradeDoubler migrating their affiliate program to Performance Horizon Group. The tendency to shift from networks either to proprietary or to SaaS solutions is clearly there.

We are, actually, going to discuss this tendency with the key affiliate networks and tracking solution providers during the “The Future Affiliate Network” panel at Affiliate Management Days San Francisco in a week.

2.        What do you think the biggest challenge is for the affiliate industry in 2014?
Just as in 2013 it isn’t going to be connected with leveraging any of the emerging trends. I believe that the industry’s biggest channel will be in justifying that the affiliate marketing guy does have a place at the table. Auditing affiliate programs on a regular basis I see advertisers falling in and out of love with affiliate marketing, and the primary reason for this is that we aren’t giving enough attention to proving the value of performance-based marketing. We aren’t focusing on showing advertisers how affiliate programs can indeed create incremental value for their businesses. Multiple affiliate programs are currently dependent on bottom-of-the-funnel affiliates, and it doesn’t have to be that way. Affiliates can be powerful introducers of new customers, and influencers of purchaser’s decisions as well. Affiliate programs can complement advertiser’s other online marketing efforts without cannibalizing any of them.

3.        What affiliate network that you think is doing great things for their merchants/advertisers?
It is hard to single out just one, as networks tend to be geographically focused (and often niche-specific too). In the U.S., for example, I would highlight ShareASale and Avantlink who aren’t only talking attribution, but also providing advertisers with practical ways/tools to analyze the clickstream and set payout rules that work for them. In the United Kingdom Affiliate Window is doing impressive things too — in tracking and research/reporting particularly.

4.        What is the biggest mistake badly run affiliate programs continue to make?
The biggest, and the costliest of all, is not giving the affiliate program the attention is deserves. From vague (or inexistent) policies to lack of compliance policing, and from minimal (or no) affiliate recruitment to lack of activation initiatives… the list could go on an on. In a nutshell, as mentioned in the video below earlier this year, “similarly to any serious marketing campaign your affiliate program must be managed.” Otherwise, it can get you into all sorts of trouble (from channel cannibalization to serious brand damage).

5.        What is one piece of advice you wished all affiliate managers would take on board?
Never assume you can stop learning. In an industry as dynamic as affiliate marketing you cannot afford to rely solely on yesterday’s knowledge, and must keep self-educating continuously. New challenges, as well as new opportunities, come up nearly weekly. Invest your time and effort in ongoing self-education!

6.        What should affiliate managers be focusing on recruitment or retention of affiliates?

When managing clients’ affiliate programs I expect AM Navigator account managers to spend no less than 80% of their time on two areas: affiliate recruitment and affiliate activation; some 50% on the former, and 30% on the latter. It is also important to emphasize that “retaining” an affiliate is, actually, fairly easy, but their retention in the program doesn’t help you a bit unless the affiliate is active with the program. We see how in unmanaged and under-managed programs the affiliate activation index (or the percentage of affiliates active in the program) ranges from 5% to 10%, while in programs where the affiliate manager is devoting time to affiliate activation the index rises up to 20% or higher. Hence, the importance of focusing on both: recruitment first, but then also activation.

7.        Affiliate Management Days have taken you around the world, what’s your favourite city for attendees?
It so happened that after some “trial and error” (with locations) we’ve arrived at what I believe to be the optimal solution: running the U.S. conference in San Francisco (this year’s show is just around the corner – March 19-20), while the European one in London (we are set to be back on May 13-14, 2014). San Francisco is, arguably, the American capital of e-commerce, while London is the place where nearly eighty percent of all things affiliate marketing are headquartered. Therefore, I cannot pick my favourite city between these two. Based on my objectives (to bring AM Days both to the U.S. and to Europe) both of these work equally great.

8.        What is the main ideas/points that you hope people get from attending AM Days?
Every AM Days conference is extremely rich in high-level content as well as laser-focused networking. When opening up the very first AM Days in 2012 I said that every attendee could expect three things from the show:

1. Practical knowledge
2. Professional networking
3. Motivation

While the affiliate marketing landscape has changed since that very first show of ours, the above three remain. Everyone who attends AM Days walks away with all of these covered.

9.        What AM Days speakers or sessions are you most looking forward to attending?
Just as the question about the “favourite city” this one puts me in a difficult position. Just as with those cities, I spent a lot of thought on every one of the speakers and sessions that one will find on the agendas of the upcoming conferences. But let me highlight 3 sessions for each of the 2014 Affiliate Management Days shows:

From the San Francisco agenda:
“Performance Secrets of Amazon’s Success” keynote by Bryan Eisenberg
* “The Future Affiliate Network” referenced above
“Data-Driven Affiliate Marketing Best Practices” keynote by Todd Crawford

From the London agenda:
“The Future of Affiliate Marketing” keynote panel with UK’s major affiliate networks
“Omni-Channel Marketing in the Affiliate Space” by Eleanor Pickering & Richard Lane
“The Birth of Multi-Attribution” by Simon Hofmeister

10.        Are you attending any SMX London sessions?
I wish! However, since I’ll be running AM Days London on exactly the same dates and hours as SMX London will be held (we are fully co-located: same venue, same expo hall, even shared lunches and reception), I am afraid, I will not be able to sneak out. Leaving my ship helmsman-less is just not my style.

11.        So where can people found you if people want to follow/engage with you online?
I am very active on TwitterLinkedIn and Google+. I also blog frequently at and speak regularly around the globe. Don’t miss my books and videos too!

Affiliate Management DaysThank you Geno for your time in answering these questions.  If you want to catch Geno Prussakov speak and save ££££ on tickets for AM Days London you can use our discount code LOSTAGENCY14 and you can register and find out more here.