What Performance Marketing Managers Should Know About Publishers

Becky Doles

Experienced Performance Marketing Managers know that strong relationships are the most important aspect of working with publishers/affiliates, but sadly not all managers have learned this lesson. During a panel at Affiliate Management Days in San Francisco, three “Super Affiliates” – Mike Allen of, Tony Pantano of Imwave and Siva Kumar of TheFind – discussed what they really think about working with Performance Marketing Managers and brands.

They Wish Performance Marketing Managers Would Communicate Better

One of the biggest pet peeves for publishers is that Performance Marketing Managers don’t communicate (or at least not enough). Mike pointed out that managers often don’t put contact information on their program’s sign up page. He said, “ I would like to know who to call, or even just their name.” Tony said it’s frustrating that “as far as I’ve been involved in this industry, managers always want to know why publishers won’t call them back, yet publishers want to know why there isn’t contact info for the managers.” He explained that there is often data and news that needs to be shared from both sides, yet there is a barrier to being able to communicate, which can impact the success of both parties.

Tony also added that when either side does try to communicate, it’s often in the wrong way. He pointed to newsletters as a terrible way of communicating news from either side. Publishers receive as many as a thousand newsletters per day. Tony advised that if you have something important to share, find another way to do it. (Just don’t use Facebook, he warned.)

They Want Performance Marketing Managers to Manage Data Better

All the panelists agreed that managers need to manage the data provided to publishers better. It’s particularly important for a manager to communicate when an URL is wrong, because it can impact the ranking of a publisher’s website. Tony explained how irritating it is when a link redirects to a 404 error page, as the result of a site redesign on the advertiser’s website. He said this happens most frequently with coupon links, which publishers rely upon heavily and noted, “it’s amazing how often they don’t work”.

Siva added that it’s critical that available offers include the right type of data. As he said often, “the price is right, the URL is right, the Image is right, but the product is missing words in the title.” As an example of this he cited Ray-Ban (which makes sunglasses) as an example of a product that had everything “right” – except none of the product titles actually included the word “sunglasses”, which made its offers harder to find for publishers.

Sometimes, They Don’t Mind Being Approached by a Manager

No one likes being cold-called, but some publishers, like Tony, apparently “try to keep an open mind” when approached by a Performance Marketing Manager for their program. As he said,, “I try not to be immediately turned off because I don’t know what programs are going to work or not work. I will approach every program the same way; I will ask for relevant metrics, I will test it, and try to develop a relationship.” Mike added that, “the cold hard sell is not one I want to endure from anybody. However, I would like the data on why your program is good, even if you’re selling cardboard boxes.” Siva suggested that any manager approaching a publisher be prepared to share as much data about their success and customers as possible.

They’re Both Excited and Worried About the Future

Right now everyone is talking about mobile, and the move of consumers towards not only mobile but multiple devices has publishers – including these guys – excited. Siva is especially excited about the move of commerce to mobile devices. Currently he is seeing 35% of his traffic coming from devices other than desktops. At the same time he’s aware this traffic isn’t converting as well as he explains that “retail websites are not set up for mobile devices due to three issues; buttons are designed to be used by a mouse (not a finger); the checkout process does not work well on mobile; and the behavior of customers is different when the screen size is small.” He is looking forward to seeing how retailers improve the mobile experience this upcoming holiday season, as he expects that over 50%+ of traffic will be coming from mobile by that time.

While Tony is excited about mobile, he’s worried about the introduction of Google AdWords Enhanced this summer. With AdWords Enhanced, there will no longer be a differentiation between tablets and PCs. This will notably affect the performance marketing industry, as 20-25% of advertisers are already not tracking conversions from mobile devices. These advertisers recognize mobile traffic and send it to a mobile website, but don’t include tracking pixels on those sites. Tony also explained that there will no longer be a differentiation of tablet traffic. For publishers, this may affect what type of offers they can work with. As he explains, “either advertisers will have to change their terms of service or publishers will have to violate them.”

Publishers do want to be able to work with performance marketing managers to be successful in their business. As Tony summarized best, “this business is all about relationships – at the end of the day, the better relationship you have with the people promoting your brand, the better you’ll do.” It’s also critical to have these relationships when a major change happens with an advertiser. It’s critical for both publishers to know who to contact, and for managers to know who their publishers are – especially the best performing ones.

As for the best advice these panelists have for Performance Marketing Managers? Tony said, “If I’m one of your top 20 publishers, and something is coming down the pipe that’s going to change something in a major way, just give me a call.”

Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.

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