The Affiliate Life

The Affiliate Life – March Madness

If you’re not familiar with that term, it’s synonymous with a college basketball tournament in the US. It’s quickly becoming a betting behemoth in the US, it’s an outrageously unpredictable tournament, but US operators are already seeing record-breaking wagers – I’m a pretty old-fashioned gambler, I’m only late 30s but I was schooled by the ways of traditional UK betting shops. The Americans are going to rewrite the script once again, giving us new territories, new markets, new tournaments and for those of you already accessing this new opportunity you’ll know these big brands are backing affiliates because they know it’s so successful. 

I’ve had a bit of my own “March Madness” this month as I’m finishing up a contract ready to set my sights fully on StatsChecker and remove all the distractions of those small side projects I’ve had running for years – 10 days to go and counting. Also, I’m desperately pacing the floor, wearing out the carpets, waiting for Boris (Johnson) to give us the (safe) greenlight to go out and experience life again and I’ve had a vaccine. I’ll be 100% focussed on StatsChecker in April!

Plus I had to refrain from investing too much into Cheltenham both personally and professionally, despite the lure of our (UK’s) very own March Madness. It’s not my niche and I’ve seen tonnes of affiliates over the years apply too much wasteful resource on this supposed pot of gold when actually it’s far too niche for most iGaming affiliates to profit from. I’ve made the mistake myself in the past at WhichBingo, assuming authority in one domain would result in guaranteed presence for some longtail racing queries – it just doesn’t work out like that anymore. Stick to your lane I think, is the most appropriate wrapper for that situation. 

And on the subject of investing, I’ve lost a small amount of money on a certain site in the news this week, which I’m sure many of you have read about. Thankfully, I recognised early on this was a gambling platform and treated it as such by only wagering a small amount, but others have not been so fortunate, with bets worth hundreds of thousands of pounds currently frozen on their platform.

The Affiliate Lessons I learned… 

Aside from the various opinions that are being thrown about as to why this company has failed, there are some important takeaways to be had from both sides here – first as a punter, but also from an affiliate partner. 

I wanted to broaden my product portfolio, by looking to diversify the betting options for my visitors. It’s common in the affiliate world to look outside of your advertising portfolio and see where else you can develop a new revenue stream. The UK sports betting market is much more consolidated, we don’t have as many matched betting fanatics scouring the internet for deals like we did a few years ago. Bonus hunters (whilst still at large) are satisfied by their existing betting sites now with regular free bets being offered up for loyalty. 

So platforms like Google Adsense have been the traditional go-to for many, it’s an alternative to the affiliate model and has its own ways of appealing to your traffic with the remarketing tactics of online retailers following people around and popping up on dynamic blocks within your site templates. Others have opted for things like native ads, a form of paid content advertising where your readership can be offered similar alternative content from publishers supposedly in your niche. 

I was excited by the opportunity to do something different, to offer an alternative betting market, that was well within my traffic scope and would be appreciated by my customers, unlike the Cheltenham campaign at WhichBingo – but the alarm bells were ringing for me early on.

Here are the facts based on two short meetings I had with them. There was no affiliate platform in place, the staff were not trained in Affiliate Marketing and were admittedly unsure how to go about the day to day management of an affiliate program. The company was lacking one of the most lucrative lead generating funnels in any iGaming business …. An affiliate programme! 

The product relied on new players to help grow. Like any gambling platform, growth was fuelled  through the introduction of new players. On the inside, the iGaming world has one of the most developed affiliate infrastructures in modern digital marketing and if you don’t get your brand set up with one, you’re missing out on a lucrative acquisition funnel. 

Affiliates refer intent-matched, deposit-ready leads! I’d go as far as saying only Paid & Organic Search produces more successful conversions and a vast portion of that traffic is funneled through an affiliate in some way – anyway. It’s not something you have a go at, you don’t put a link in your footer to a form looking for “affiliate partner” interest. Because affiliates are experts in this field and when we spot when something is amiss, like we look through a clear glass. Over the years, we’ve developed high standards. We know how much traffic we’ve sent to a program before they’ve even had a chance to measure it! We’re data addicts and if operator data doesn’t match up to ours – alarm bells are ringing. 

If you are going to develop an affiliate program, make sure you do so in a way that exemplifies the type of brand you want to be, ask an expert and do it right – don’t ever go in half-hearted because it just won’t work otherwise. Having an affiliate program WILL drive you leads, so invest to do it properly. Or you might end up with a bigger problem you need to deal with like a lack of funding to expand your business proposition.

My Point is… 

There’s a simple lesson here, and that is – when something doesn’t quite feel right, be careful. Now that’s a pretty useless cliche in isolation because we do that naturally. But my lesson came from my knowledge of affiliate marketing. Just by assessing the very small interaction with the company in question in terms of how much respect or investment they had given to their affiliate channel, I could tell something wasn’t right. So it wasn’t a gut feeling, it was clear evidence that you can sometimes overlook because the opportunity to work with a brand may look attractive. 

I do this all the time when I’m betting on a horse, little signs like “First time up in trip” or “Hasn’t run for x amount of days” these are all warning signs that if ignored can result in an adverse outcome. We can all take measured risks with our marketing, but you should only do so when you’re satisfied that everything else is working to its optimum. I could have invested valuable time and resources in setting up an affiliate relationship with this company, but those initial “conversation clues” lead me to back away and spend the time further optimising my current revenue funnel instead.

I realise – this was a little sidestep away from my normal site progress report, March Madness it seems has been a little frantic and we can often find ourselves doing things on auto-pilot when we’re uber busy. 

I’ll be back next month with a progress report, but I’m about to take a short break before going full steam ahead on

Just remember, even though we can’t take holidays, we have to take breaks. It’s that autopilot in busy times that can often lead us to make unsubstantiated commercial or business defining decisions and they can lead to costly mistakes in your affiliate business. A break from that type of mental processing can help you reset how we make our entrepreneurial decisions so do yourself a favour and have a break when you think you need it!

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