This post is part of our new Future of Marketing series which interviews the leading founders and executives who are on the front lines of the industry to get a better understanding of what problems the industry is facing, what trends are taking place, and what the future looks like.
The following is an interview we recently had with Robert Glazer, Founder & Managing Director at Acceleration Partners.
1. What’s the history of Acceleration Partners? Where and how did you begin?
RG: Around 2006, I left my full-time job to launch a product review website and newsletter. This site offered deals and discounts to expectant parents, including a selection of “best picks.” I curated product reviews and deals and used Amazon affiliate links. In addition to being an Amazon affiliate, I also became the first unofficial affiliate of a growing company named Tiny Prints (they didn’t have a formal affiliate program with a tracking solution at that time). Working in this capacity as a publisher gave me insight into being an affiliate, connecting with retailers and monetizing my growing review site.
After working with Tiny Prints for some time and seeing its phenomenal growth first-hand, I reached out to its founder, Ed Han about creating a more formal affiliate program for the company. As he was too busy to invest the time and energy into it and knew that I had the understanding and experience of an affiliate, he asked me to build the program. This experience not only gave me the merchant’s perspective of working within the affiliate model, it also launched my consulting company, which ultimately evolved into Acceleration Partners.
2. What specific problem does Acceleration Partners solve? How do you solve it?
RG: Paying partners – marketing and business – on performance. Affiliate marketing is really one of the only models that solves this issue because its very framework is structured so that partners are paid after an agreed-upon action/results has been completed. These partners could be “traditional” affiliates (bloggers, loyalty sites, coupon sites, etc.), influencer marketers, business development partners, non-profits, schools, and many others.
At Acceleration Partners, we actually take this solution a step further with our Performance Partnerships® framework, which makes it possible for companies to grow their marketing and business development partnerships in a much more efficient, scalable, cost-effective way. Four distinct features of Performance Partnerships® make this possible:
1. A CPA element. Partners bring a certain behavior to the table; once that behavior is delivered and tracked, payment is then made in real-time. In a Performance Partnership, brands only pay when there’s a clear connection between results and performance.
2. Transparency. In a Performance Partnership, there’s transparency, understanding, and ease about what your partners are doing to promote and represent your company and how they’re doing it.
3. A real relationship. Performance Partnerships are built on quality relationships. Companies not only know what their partners are doing to promote their brand, they are also confident about what they are doing. There’s clear communication, trust and respect. As such, there is no real difference between what a company considers to be “business development” relationships and relationships they have with affiliates. They are all partners.
4. A real-time tracking and payment platform. Performance Partnerships use real-time tracking platforms to handle operating agreements, tracking, and payments. These platforms also provide transparent real-time reporting to both parties. For some, this may mean adopting a traditional affiliate network solution. For others, it may involve engaging a software as a service (SaaS) platform. Rather than keeping non-affiliate relationships separate from your affiliate programs, they are (ideally) all managed in the same place.
3. What’s the future of marketing?
Prediction #1: Greater Focus on Outcomes, not Inputs. Across the board, we see growing demand for all marketing to be performance-based. Companies are sick and tired of paying for things and having no idea what they’re getting in return. At the moment, this tension is most notable in programmatic display marketing, which is going through a multibillion-dollar fraud crisis driven by a lack of transparency and seriously misaligned incentives. Companies want to know what they are paying for, what they should expect in return and if that’s actually happening. I think we’ll see this be more of a requirement throughout all marketing channels, models and partnerships.
Prediction #2: Rise in Marketplaces of Marketing. How Uber and Airbnb structure their business and affiliate programs is a great example of this. Uber isn’t in the business of owning cars. Airbnb isn’t in the business of owning houses. Instead, they own an online marketplace that brings buyers and sellers (or drivers and passengers; homeowners and short-term housing seekers) together online.
Uber, for example, allows drivers to become part of the Uber driver network. Within the parameters of that network, Uber drivers can work how and when they choose, regulated by their feedback scores and Uber’s brand guidelines. This type of business model is helping to expand the gig economy marketplace.
What’s more is that one of the ways these companies promote their online marketplace is via the affiliate model. They partner with entrepreneurial marketers (affiliates, publishers) to promote their online marketplace. Uber compensates affiliates who generate driver and passenger leads and new users of Uber. These affiliates are all compensated on a performance-basis, receiving payment for results and outcomes, rather than for work they put into their marketing.
This “marketplaces of marketing” or crowd-sourced marketing model allows companies to seek out a variety of brand-aligned niche marketers who may specialize in certain areas (e.g. Instagram, content, coupons, loyalty incentives, etc.). Rather than try to be good at everything and do everything in-house, companies will increasingly leverage a marketplace system that allows them to partner with people whose incentives are aligned and who will often promote their products and services in new, more innovative ways.
Prediction #3: Affiliate Marketing will Play a More Prominent Role. The affiliate marketing model can be used for everything from customer acquisition and lead generation to attracting, managing and scaling business development partnerships, influencer relationships and even school fundraisers.
Most other forms of digital marketing, like display advertising, require that you pay in advance for a set number of impressions. This down payment, combined with the questionable ROI of impression-based marketing, means that companies are paying for inputs, not outcomes.
Conversely, the performance-based backbone of affiliate marketing means that companies only pay for results, whether that’s a cost-per-acquisition, a cost-per-lead or some other agreed-upon outcome.
Additionally, brands have more control in their affiliate marketing partnerships. From the types of affiliates they partner with, how much they compensate them and the offers/promotions/content they provide them to the technology platforms they use and what’s included in their terms and conditions, the company is in the driver’s seat. This is especially true when the program is properly managed.
Successful affiliate programs have highly-competent program management teams that: have a strong publisher development program in place; screen, recruit, activate and optimize affiliates; monitor their marketing activity to ensure it adheres to the client’s terms and conditions; conduct competitive analysis; come up with creative campaign ideas to test and implement; provide guidance on compensation; report on program performance; and do a great deal more to ensure the program is scaling with quality growth.
These are all things that companies are saying they want and expect from their marketing – now and well into the future.
4. What are the top 3 technology trends you’re seeing in marketing?
Trend #1: Software as a Service (SaaS) Platforms. SaaS solutions have been around for some time, but companies are now using them more for their demand generation, account-based marketing and affiliate programs.
In the affiliate space, SaaS platforms serve solely as a tracking solution. Instead of primarily charging merchants performance fees, some SaaS platforms offer a variety of fee models, including fixed, volume/transaction-based, and performance fees. In turn, these platforms offer quality, white-labeled affiliate network technology to manage “direct” affiliate relationships for retailers. SaaS platforms also have the ability to create custom technology solutions for their clients.
Trend #2: Attribution software. The explosion of marketing channels and devices has added layers of complexity to what was, a few years ago, a relatively simple funnel. This complex multi-channel, multi-device landscape has made it incredibly challenging for companies to determine which marketing methods are working, how they interact with each other, which ones are adding value and which ones aren’t. This is where attribution software comes in.
For companies who are just starting to understand and improve their existing attribution, Google Analytics (GA) can be a great platform to start with. However, many advertisers have reached the limits of what GA can show them and are ready for a more advanced attribution technology platform that can provide deeper insights into strategy and incrementality. These technology solutions are on the rise and will likely play a significant role in how companies determine which channels are assisting with and directly leading to conversions and how those channels are resourced.
Trend #3: App-to-App Technology. Ibotta’s partnership with Button is a good example of this technology and how it’s taking mobile and affiliate marketing to a new level. Ibotta, one of the largest consumer technology companies – and an affiliate — lets consumers earn cash back when they buy certain products at participating grocers and retailers through a smartphone app.
Button is the app-to-app technology provider. Through their deep-linking technology (the connections between the apps you use), Button provides the navigation and tracking from Ibotta’s app to their partners’ apps. This technology makes it possible for consumers using Ibotta’s app to shop directly on one of Ibotta’s partners’ native apps instead of having to go through a mobile website.
For example, if a shopper purchases anything on the Jet app after connecting to it via Ibotta’s app, the consumer will receive a cash-back percentage from Ibotta. Once a purchase is complete, Button verifies the reward and then attributes Ibotta if the connection resulted in a sale. In this Jet example, once Button’s technology has verified that the sale came from Ibotta’s app, Jet would pay Ibotta a commission fee for delivering the shopper to their app.
Button and Ibotta are a great example of a Performance Partnership® because retailers only pay Ibotta a commission when a transaction through the app results in a sale.
5. Why is the marketing industry ripe for disruption?
RG: It’s an industry that’s being impacted by new technology, new work-life paradigms (more people wanting to work from home/be self-employed), and new expectations around performance, compensation, transparency, and results. Currently, there are also a lot of people and agencies who are making a lot of money for little work and little ability to prove results. Companies are becoming more aware of this and demanding changes.
About Robert Glazer
Serial entrepreneur, Robert Glazer is renowned for his ability to grow revenue and profits for well-known brands. He has contributed over one hundred articles on marketing, business strategy, culture, leadership, entrepreneurship and customer acquisition to top publications. He also recently authored the Amazon best-seller, Performance Partnerships, a first-of-its-kind book about the past, present, and future of the performance marketing industry.
A sought-after speaker, Robert presents to global audiences and serves as an advisor to high-growth businesses. He’s also the author behind the inspirational Friday Forward blog (www.fridayfwd.com). In his spare time, Bob is an avid writer, skier, traveler, cyclist and serial home renovator.