Affiliate Rockstars

Affiliate Rockstar: Kay Wolfson

Nate Ivie

Affiliate Rockstar Kay Wolfson—

Introducing Kay Wolfson

Kay started her marketing career in the direct mail and lead generation industry, including developing the first affiliate channel for Tax Defense Network. Kay has since been providing marketing consulting and services, currently focusing on direct-to-consumer e-commerce brands as the Director of Performance Marketing at

Rockstar Q&A with Kay

What are you day-to-day duties?
Every day is different, but there are some core responsibilities in the day-to-day at Performance Marketing: daily reporting requirements across multiple brands, QA of links/offers/publisher pages, client meetings, new publisher onboarding, new publisher vetting, contracting, general channel administration, employee training, and various technical troubleshooting and technical integrations.

How did you get into the affiliate industry?
I got into the affiliate industry by accident! I never intended to pursue marketing as a career, I thought I was going the legal analyst route in life, and boy was I wrong!

I started out in the direct mail space (seminar mailings for financial advisors) and the direct mail space was struggling. I was introduced through a few of my financial advisors to some internet marketing tactics that they were testing and it was love at first sight.

I learned on the fly while in a tax debt lead generation space due to a stellar leader who really pushed me to just “try” something.

From there it was a lot of self-taught learning (read as trial and error), asking questions (constantly), reading everything I could find, and continuing to strive for overall world domination. I have chosen to stay in the affiliate industry because it’s simply fascinating, and there is always something new to learn, to try, and to test.

What is your biggest pet peeve about the affiliate industry?
The lack of data transparency and the overall over-pitching and under-delivering across the board. I would rather publishers/partners/vendors be upfront and honest about how they approach their affiliate practice than deal with backpedaling. The affiliate industry is not going to improve its reputation if there is a continued thought process of getting brands onboarded at any cost. My best relationships are with publishers and partners who have said, “This isn’t a good fit for us, and here is why.”

What do you think is undervalued in marketing in general?
The value of strong creative to curated landing pages and customized nurturing communications post transactions. Brands do not think about the pre-click to post-click communications as thoroughly as they should nor do they put the same amount of attention into the post-click, post-transactional experience.

“Affiliate” or “partner”?
Both! While affiliate may have a negative connotation, it’s still the right name for what we do and who we are! I consider a partner to be a “tried-and-true” relationship with vendors who have consistently performed or strived to drive our business relationship forward.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve come across in affiliate marketing?
Getting brands to drop their preconceived notions of affiliate marketing has been one of the toughest to overcome. “Affiliate is dirty,” or my favorite, “Affiliate didn’t work for me in 2008,” are common comments that have been made. Getting brands to recognize that affiliate traffic is not like paid media traffic is also a challenge.

I believe that brand/client education is essential, so we spend a lot of time learning, listening, and talking to our brands before we make recommendations around affiliate marketing and which part of affiliate we feel will help drive that brand forward toward its goals.

What’s the next big thing in affiliate marketing?
In e-commerce affiliates: BNPL publishers are the next big thing. IYKYK!

BNPL has a lot of the same hallmarks and growth trends that are reminiscent of the early days of loyalty and cashback publishers.

We are also seeing a rise in affiliate content, which is great and really helps legitimize affiliate publishers. While earned media has its place, paid content has continued to be a developing trend that we are seeing significant success with for the right brand.

Lead generation, lead nurturing, and consumer monetization are also coming back around for a lot more industries, especially as iOS 14.5 has made first-party data collection more challenging. Finding quality consumers at a better CAC can be done through a well-thought-out lead generation and monetization plan.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made in affiliate marketing?
I was hesitant to call BS when I heard BS. As a young affiliate marketer, I made a ton of bad calls and worked with publishers who were the epitome of shady. I ignored my gut and didn’t pressure myself to get the right answers or to get a straight answer, and it caused me a lot of headaches in the long run. As an older affiliate marketer, I call it like I see it or hear it and I am not afraid to do so.

What are 2-3 trends you are seeing in the industry?

  1. Lead generation is definitely making a comeback (not that it ever really went away) with a higher focus on driving leads to a brand’s CRM for email nurturing, audience building, etc. at a lower cost than before.

  2. Affiliate content! The content side of the e-commerce business has definitely made some strategic changes that are making content a useful strategy for most brands and verticals.

How important is following the journey of a user after you (or your advertisers) first acquire them or after their first purchase?
Crucial. You spend time, money, and effort to acquire a consumer — shouldn’t the same (or ideally more) effort be put into continuing to engage and nurture that consumer into a brand loyalist?

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Kay Wolfson

Kay Wolfson

Director of Performance Marketing,

Nate Ivie

As VP of Sales at TUNE, Nate’s team focuses on enterprise sales for TUNE, an industry leading platform that provides brands, agencies, and affiliate networks the infrastructure to track and manage their partner marketing activities. Prior to TUNE, Nate worked in sales and client services at Tippr, one of the early group buying platforms, and Efinancial, an online life insurance brokerage. Nate received his BA in Social Sciences from Washington State University.