Another Friday Feedback in the books, read along to catch up!
On February 9th, 2018 our own Andrew Maff sat down with Greg Hoffman, the CEO of Apogee Agency to talk about affiliate marketing for e-commerce sellers and how a well-managed ShareASale account can help drive more revenue from bloggers, influencers, and affiliates.
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FOLLOW ALONG WITH GREG HOFFMAN ON SHARESALE AFFILIATE MARKETING
Greg Hoffman: I can hear you fine.
Andrew Maff: Perfect. How are things going over at Apogee?
Greg Hoffman: Things are going great this week. We've ... it's the second week of the month, so last week it was all reports. This week we are getting into sending out newsletters, talking to affiliates, and creating more content for them.
Andrew Maff: Fun. So for everyone who's listening, who doesn't know, Greg you are the founder of Apogee agency. Would you mind explaining a little about what it is you guys do?
Greg Hoffman: Sure We are an affiliate management agency and we exist because there are companies out there that do not have the resources or the experience to manage their own affiliate program. I've been doing this now for more than ten years, and I've had the company for nine years now. And basically, we manage programs on the ShareASale network for companies that sell physical products and have existing e-commerce stores. And they are just looking for just a little bit more from the affiliate channel and they just don't know how to do it themselves.
Andrew Maff: Beautiful. Yeah, affiliate marketing is such a hot topic. Everyone ... we get questions about it all the time. It's our choice we don't do much with affiliate marketing, mainly because: a) there's people out there like you who do such a great job at it, so we don't even bother. But on top of that, reaching out to bloggers and doing all the out reach process ... it can be such a hassle and for new sellers knowing ... that just because someone has 100,000 followers doesn't actually mean [inaudible 00:01:52] kinda sales for you. I've heard way to many sellers, you know, get in just ... screwed over from working with a blogger who has a ton of followers and brought in no sales and they did a post and spent tens of thousands of dollars on having him do that. So you guys strictly with ShareASale or do you do anything else outside of that?
Greg Hoffman: Well, right now we are exclusive to ShareASale that just happens to be where all of the programs are. We've managed programs on the Commission Junction Network on Pepperjam, Avantlink. We've been on other networks, but we have chosen ShareASale as our favorite, and if we pick up any new business we're going to try and move them to ShareASale.
Andrew Maff: Beautiful. So, why did you pick ShareASale over every other ... all that were Commission Junction any there are a couple of others out there? I can't remember the name of them.
Greg Hoffman: Yeah, we chose them because of their conversion line rules. Basically, since we do work with a lot of content, bloggers, influencers, SEO type of affiliates. They work hard to build their promotions. Build the blog posts, take pictures, do videos, whatever. And we want to make sure that they don't lose their commissions to coupon or loyalty or paid search type of affiliates. And in traditional cost per sales affiliate marketing, those corporate type of affiliates, as I call them. They usually get the last click. And they win all of the commissions. So those hard working content affiliates, the bloggers, lose commissions. And they complain constantly.
While I didn't make any money the conversion was so low. The reason, sometimes is because they're losing to other affiliate models. And ShareASale allows us to create rules that level the playing field. And so we actually split the commissions. If the ... let's say the commission is going to be 10%, and the blogger did a really good job bringing that new customer to the merchant. They're not going to get 2% or 10%, they're going to get 8%. The coupon site, or whoever, is going to get 2%. The content site deserved more, and so they are going to get more. But the coupon site did its job. Delivered a valuable coupon at the end. But they are only going to get 2%, because that's what they're worth.
Andrew Maff: Nice. How do that ... these bloggers, and really like find the good ones. These content creators who can really drive traffic and help, you know, bring in conversion. As opposed to, you know, just inundating amount of people coming in. So, [inaudible 00:04:36] for example for those people who don't know. I've worked with Greg in the past and [inaudible 00:04:39] old e-commerce company I was at, and when we were originally handling ShareASale ourselves, We'd get people requesting to be a part of our ShareASale program all the time. And, I couldn't tell if their blog was good or not. Like you can do your own research and figure out if they have traffic. But how are you deciding who to actually work with, and who not to.
Greg Hoffman: It's my gut, honestly. It's also that I've been doing this for so long that I've little red flags that I have in my head. And I scan every single application in more than 20 programs on a daily basis. So, if it's a coupon site that I'm ... would not work with or I do not work with naturally. I'm just going to decline them. If they have a brand new template that they bought from some guru. And it's a crappy template and there's hundreds of others just like it, I'm not going to let them in. If they're using some type of free service, a free hosting service to create a website. And you can clearly see there's no content. They've never put ... they started the website yesterday. And there is nothing there. I'm not going to work with that type of affiliate.
Now, I will give them a chance to appeal the decision. If they have an idea ... and this happened just last week. It was a great domain, but there was no website. And I declined them, and the guy came back and he said, "No I'm really going to build a really good website. I've got a great domain, you have to admit that. Can you let me in?" And I said, you know what. I will let you in conditionally but we are going to be checking in on you. And you need to tell us, you know, when you are going to update things. And so we've been talking about every two to three days. He's been giving me an update, and I'm very happy that he is actually building a website that is relevant to this one client.
Andrew Maff: So how did you start Apogee? Where did you come up with the idea? Where did you come from? And, you know, decided to start doing this.
Greg Hoffman: Boy, that's a loaded question. I've had several different careers. I've started out as a newspaper reporter. And I left newspapers 20 years ago. And got into public relations and digital marketing. I did a lot of gorilla marketing through PR, back in the early 2000's. And, I got a job at Thompson Cigar, in Tampa, Florida. The oldest cigar catalog in the county. And, my first day they introduced me to all of these different digital channels that I was supposed to be responsible for. And affiliate marketing was one of them. And over the next couple of years, while I was at Thompson Cigar, I realized I'm really good at building relationships with affiliates. So, I stuck with affiliate marketing and in 2009 I started this company. I went out on my own. And decided to be an outsource program manager, because there was a need. There was so many new programs that were launching on the networks that had no idea what they were doing. And they clearly needed some experience help.
Andrew Maff: That actually brings up a good point, I wanted to mention to you. I did see you went to USF. You went to University of South Florida. So ...
Greg Hoffman: Born and raised in Tampa.
Andrew Maff: We are ... enemies here. I'm UCF graduate. I went to University of Central Florida.
Greg Hoffman: I was going to say ... Orlando.[crosstalk 00:08:17]
Andrew Maff: So ... I do appreciate your work.
Greg Hoffman: But that's, you know, when I went to USF there was no football team. So, there was no competition. We didn't see UCF
Andrew Maff: That's true.
Greg Hoffman: As any competition at all. Maybe in basketball, but definitely not football.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. Anyway, I digress. So past week, past month, 2018 do you see any trends. Something new, you know, in e-commerce that you've been doing that you've been seeing with affiliate marketing that, you know, you're starting to maneuver the way you guys are promoting in the way you guys are working with affiliates. You know, that will really help out e-commerce sellers throughout the rest of the year.
Greg Hoffman: My message this year is education and activation. We've been really good at recruiting affiliates. We're bringing in affiliates that might not have been in affiliate marketing before. But they also don't know what they are doing. So, we are trying to educate them ... teach them how to promote the products, teach them the fundamentals about affiliate marketing. And the way we are doing it is through video marketing. So, we are building a library of different series of videos that are going to be teaching affiliates everything that they need to know about ShareASale. About our specific clients, about how we work. We're introducing them to other managers, other merchants, other thought leaders in affiliate marketing. So, we're trying to educate affiliates as much as possible. Because, they're in the programs, they're just not active. And we really need to do a better job a teaching them or giving them the tools on how to be successful.
Andrew Maff: Do you require your affiliates to have X amount of social following, or is it more based off their website?
Greg Hoffman: It's more based off their potential. You know, they could have great content and no social followers. And it doesn't matter about the social followers. They just need to know how to find buyers. And that is the primary thing. You know, you mentioned the bloggers earlier. Bloggers might have 20,000 followers, but those followers might not be built to be buyers. And that is where influencer marketing and affiliate marketing are kinda clashing over the last couple of years. Is ... we are not PR in advertising. We are affiliate marketing, and the bloggers need to get paid off of performance. And if they're audience is not going to click and buy, that is not a worthwhile audience.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. How do you difference between influencer marketing and affiliate marketing?
Greg Hoffman: I mean, it
Andrew Maff: It's tough
Greg Hoffman: It's really is ... It's tough. And I want more of influencers to understand affiliate marketing. You know, the influencers want to get paid up front. Well, that doesn't work with me. You get paid on performance. So, again it comes down to education and in finding the right influencers that understand that they are going to have to do a little bit more than just promote it. We don't need eyeballs, we need clicks. And we need people to buy. And so we're going to try teach the influencers to find or build a new audience. You know, we don't need people that are just interested in watching videos or looking at pictures. They have to take action. And maybe the audience is the problem.
Andrew Maff: In your eyes what is, you know, the perfect affiliate? What is their website have if, you know, they're an absolute perfect, you know, person to be working with for arguably for any of your clients.
Greg Hoffman: The perfect affiliate, I mean there is so many different ways, but I'm old school. I've been around for a while, and I use to love data feed affiliates. Because, they're programmers, they're technical, and they were building sites based off of data feeds. But Google deemed most of those sites, as thin sites. And kinda classified them with a lot the spam, or crappy thin sites. So, essentially ... Google killed off the good data feed affiliates from 5-10 years ago. I do miss those type of affiliates. In so, we're teaching affiliates how to use the data feed by promoting specific products, not necessarily building out a catalog of pages. But, right now, depending on the product, I do like review sites. Where they're actually doing reviews and, you know, they buying the product themselves anonymously. And so they are not influencing the shipping or the packaging. They are just buying the products and they are reviewing them in an honest and, you know ... just ... authentic way. And I really like that type of affiliate promotion.
Andrew Maff: Yeah. Okay. So you and I meet at Prosper last year originally. Are you going again this year?
Greg Hoffman: No, we're not going to do it this year. I'm glad I went, I did get to meet you [crosstalk 00:14:03]and I did [crosstalk 00:14:06]find another client there.
Andrew Maff: Yeah.
Greg Hoffman: You lost me for a minute. We're not going back this year. We did find a couple of clients there. But we were there on a personal mission. To see if we could find a product or if we could do another business selling some type of product on our own. We're still working on that, by the way.
Andrew Maff: All right Greg.[crosstalk 00:14:39] I really appreciate you sitting down and talking with me. You mind telling everyone, you know, where they can find you and give us kinda your closing words here.