When it comes to data-driven Performance Marketing, attribution, efficient publisher reporting and payment, incrementality, taking affiliate programs global, mobile tracking and optimization and pretty much anything related to affiliate marketing, the Impact Radius team is on top of their game.
I sat down with Todd Crawford, co-founder and vice president of Strategic Initiatives at Impact Radius to get a pulse on the state of Performance Marketing and wanted to share with you some of the insightful gems that he conveyed to me.
Thanks for taking the time to chat with me, Todd! To start us off, can you explain what Impact Radius does?
Impact Radius is a Software as a Service (SaaS) company and with this type of platform all of our software and technology is available through the web. While we offer a suite of marketing tools, we’re probably best known for our Partner Manager and Media Manager products.
Partner Manager is an affiliate and strategic partnership platform that allows agencies and brands to create a private or public-labeled affiliate or partner program.
We also have a Media Manager product that lets you manage and track your other media outside of affiliate or other affiliate programs you might be running on other networks. This product offers insights into a customer’s click path as well as advanced attribution analytics.
Both of those products also have mobile tracking capabilities so we can offer SDKs for iOS, Android and Windows phones. We also have a tag management product.
How did you get started in Performance Marketing Industry?
In 1998, co-founded a company called Commission Junction, which was really the first true network model. At the time, the other players were really focused on delivering solutions to the advertiser whereas we were publisher-focused.
Before Commission Junction, all the reporting and payments to a publisher were separated by advertiser. With our solution, when a publisher worked with more than one advertiser, they were now able to get aggregate reporting and aggregate payment. That really helped facilitate and accelerate the adoption of affiliate marketing because it made life much easier for affiliates. And today, that’s how everyone does it.
At Impact Radius, you work with some large brands, including Target, Cabela’s, Tommy Hilfiger. How are you helping them be more effective with their performance marketing efforts?
We’ve really built a solution that works well for large brands. They tend to have a lot more needs and questions, so a big piece of our solution is engineered around data and insights. When we created Impact Radius, which we founded in 2008 and launched with our first client in 2010, we really focused on flexibility around capturing a lot more data than what traditional affiliate solutions were offering. That and making our reporting far more flexible.
Today, we work with these large brands to capture and create data that they want to see so they can better manage their business. A lot of that is around KPIs and metrics that are important for them to measure. We also provide advertisers with a lot more control – control around how their brand is portrayed, how they use promo codes, tracking, crediting, etc.
Our solutions also work well for non-traditional affiliate partnerships. Advertisers really want to diversify their affiliate base and they are looking for more affiliates outside the traditional space.
Lastly I’d say cost. Because we’re a SaaS company and we’re licensing technology, we tend to be more cost-effective over the legacy network-type solutions.
What sets IR apart from a traditional network?
Most of the time when advertisers look at their affiliate base and look at the revenue they get out of their affiliate channel, 90% is driven by 5% of their affiliates and that can be as few as 10 to 25 affiliates. So if those advertisers are going to work with us, it’s important that those partners are pre-integrated so they can hit the ground running. We’ve worked really hard since 2010 to get the leading publishers in the affiliate space to work with us, including those in the loyalty space or affiliate with unique technology because they those types of publishers require special integration.
Most other SaaS vendors out there typically don’t have retail clients so they don’t usually have the retail and travel-type partnerships pre-integrated, which can really slow down or hinder an advertiser’s ability to adopt those platforms.
In addition to our decades of experience, we also have an integrated global payment processing solution built into our platform so advertisers don’t have to worry about how their affiliates in different countries will get paid.
I’d also share that we provide advertisers with cross-channel insights so we can show how affiliate is supporting conversions being credited to other channels like paid search, display or email and vice versa. So it helps broad the perspective of an affiliate manager.
Lastly, we’ve built our product to work with lots of different verticals, such as retail, travel, telecom, financial, web based services, etc.
Are you seeing an uptick in brands wanting to manage their programs internationally?
It really depends on the brand. With that said, many brands do want to leverage the whole internet so international is definitely a growth area and piece of that strategy. We’ve built a lot of tools and functionality to support that, whether it’s creating electronic contracts or insertion order in specific currencies, being able to pay publishers in specific currencies or reporting in specific currencies, etc. We cover all those bases so that our platform will support companies who are interested in taking their performance marketing strategies global.
How are you helping marketers leverage data and extract more value from their performance marketing platforms?
Data is really the next evolution in Performance Marketing. In the old days it was about how many affiliates you had and how much revenue they were contributing overall as a channel and as an individual.
Today, marketers are far more sophisticated. They are getting very sophisticated data internally across their other channels and they want that same sophistication when they’re managing their affiliate program. So we really feel that data is a big value proposition that we bring to the market and it’s something that both agencies and the internal affiliate managers need to both justify the channel and optimize partnerships. It’s also about providing custom data. Some brands and agencies want to access specific data in a certain way and they need a platform that allows them to do that.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges brands face when it comes to Performance Marketing?
Getting the right data to demonstrate the value of the channel as a whole, assessing whether certain publishers are adding value and how that value is measured is a challenge for many brands. They need to have the ability to measure their own key performance indicators and overlay that onto the affiliate channel and individual affiliates. If they believe in the program, they need to be able to champion the channel internally and answer questions about how affiliates are driving incremental value and synch that up to how their other channels are being measured to determine success.
Mobile is another challenge for brands. Nothing has grown faster since the inception of the internet than mobile. A lot of advertisers – especially in the retail, travel and financial spaces – are looking at the mobile web experience as primary and mobile apps secondary. I think the next level they need to get to is getting buy-in to drive more installs or in-app activity through the affiliate channel and measure it.
What are your recommendations for brands looking to work with affiliates but face obstacles when it comes to mobile optimization and tracking?
The first thing is to make sure you have good data and tracking in place. You really don’t want to jump into it without knowing what your objectives are. With that said, not every affiliate can leverage mobile effectively. So if you can measure first and then develop a strategy on which affiliates are going to be the most effective. Have conversations with them about what they’ve done for other similar brands to help with mobile adoption (either driving installs or in-app activity, such as sales, usage, registration – whatever app value they are trying to drive). Develop the strategy first, measure, then implement and optimize.
What role does IR work with agencies and what role do you see agencies playing in the Performance Marketing Industry?
When we started Impact Radius, the one thing we knew we didn’t want to do was affiliate management. We felt as though there is an inherent conflict of interest that’s in the legacy network models because they are getting paid on the performance and they are in charge of managing the performance.
We feel that focusing on technology allows us to deliver the best technology, the best analytics and the best new features. In cases where the client doesn’t have the internal resources, we partner with agencies to deliver the strategy and the actual services. For us, those partnerships are a big piece of our business. It works great. In fact, I’d say that greater than half of the new clients we bring on are touched by an agency or working with an agency.
What I like about agencies versus in-house management is that agencies have seen, implemented and tried a lot of things across similar clients, so when an advertiser communicates their challenges, goals and what we need to accomplish in the affiliate channel, an agency has broader experience of both successes and failures. They can say, ‘Look, we’ve tried your idea with three similar brands, it didn’t work, this is why, but here’s what did work.’ Agencies can provide a lot more insights than in-house management and leverage their experience across their clients.
To learn more about Todd Crawford and the Impact Radius team, visit their website at www.ImpactRadius.com.