AiThority Interview with Alex Springer, VP EMEA – Sales and Solutions Architects at impact.com
How is automation being applied in the affiliate space today?
Automating and personalizing is a challenge for any marketing channel. You’re trying to reach out to so many different people and present one message from your brand that is relevant to all of them, it’s almost impossible. But when it comes to affiliates and other partner types you are instead personalizing communications and materials to partners encompassing everything from individual bloggers to large corporations that have been doing this for decades.
The responsibility for personalizing to the audience then falls to the partners – which is in no small part why the partner channel offers a much more engaging avenue for your customers to know your brand. So automation becomes much more focussed on getting partners the information they need to do their work and to understand its performance; sorting and handling partner requests automatically, freeing up time to handle the ones that can’t, and finding new partners on a regular basis using insights from the existing partner base.
Also, automation itself also means many things. Automating performance reports or the latest vouchers and creatives is entirely different to automation that supports the needs of long tail of bloggers or a set of influencers. What’s essential is applying automation so individuals can work in the way they want while removing the administrative burden.
Lastly, automation is good at surfacing opportunities faster than humans can, but it isn’t particularly good at identifying which of those opportunities are actually worth executing on. The intersection between automation and human activity should be at the decision point – I want to be able to have the information, time, and signals available at the moment that I sit down to decide what to try next or get creative about how we improve!
Do you think that AI will replace humans at some point in the future?
Right now, AI isn’t good at thinking sideways. Yes, it’s great at answering the questions you’re asking it. But what it can’t do is come up with the right question if you haven’t asked it correctly (or at all!).
If you’re asking, ‘How do I get more conversions?’, AI will deliver the historically highest converting partners, recommend you spend more with them, and potentially suggest new partners like them that you don’t work with today. Which is important – but if the real question you want to answer is ‘How do I get more high-value conversions?’ which then requires defining what a high-value conversion looks like for your business. Are the data points that indicate a high-value conversion available to your machine learning model? If not, you aren’t going to get much use out of that model. Your machine learning can’t tell you what it is that it needs but is missing.
To get closer to the real value, people need to adjust the inputs or questions asked based on their objective. That’s why we’re focusing on building tools that expose more data and automating them to get the information to those who can start asking the right questions. Until we can take a natural language business goal, and automatically translate it into hard numbers that we can then put data into, we need this human component.
What advice can you give to marketers who want to get automation into their businesses but don’t know how to have that conversation with the C-suite?
While I believe impact.com has the most advanced partnership automation technology available, and that really matters to the teams that use it, this don’t matter to the C-suite. What matters to them is whether it decreases risk, increases revenue, reduces costs, or a combination of the three. To get the buy-in and investment from the C-suite, you need to translate the technology into the key drivers of the business and the outcomes it will deliver.
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In this increasingly automated world, what skills do people need to be proficient in?
Today, a critical skill in nearly every role – whether that’s marketing, sales or customer success – is taking data, asking initial questions around it, and then using the tools you have to interrogate it. I can automate data aggregation and I can write a query that returns pivoted data in really interesting and informative ways. But to take that information and do something with it requires being comfortable with knowing not just what the numbers represent but where they came from, what they might relate to, and to start making guesses about what could be done that has never been done before to change them. Successful people recognize that technology supports human brilliance – too often I get the sense that we think that the goal is to make a machine so smart that all we do is feed it data and do what it tells us to do.
What are the benefits you’re seeing amongst those clients using Mediarails?
As a platform, Mediarails helps businesses rapidly find new partners to work with and then effectively communicate with them. As a tool, it allows for the kind of personalization of partner communications at the scale that I mentioned earlier. Brands that don’t use Mediarails to find new partners are missing out on what could be a big group of potential mid- or long-tail opportunities. But communications are equally important. If you’re not going to use automation to manage these partners, you’re better off missing out on the long tail because you won’t be able to look after them efficiently. It’s also worth adding that the functionality of Mediarails has now been built into the impact.com platform.
The brands making a difference in their partner programmes are those that are taking their communication tools and automating them effectively. But it’s important to note that personalization here does not mean that your first name is included in the salutation – as a partner I don’t really care that you know my first name (although it is nice to have!). I want you to personalize the email with critical information – relevant to me and my audience – that will help me at the moment to drive growth and engagement in my audience. Some examples of this can be recent performance data, new products or product information, new creatives, or contract changes. I want a personalized email that says:
“This is what your audience bought the most of last year after reading review X and we are putting out a similar new product in a month that we think they would like. Optimize your earning with another review – here is the product imagery, description, and USP for your consideration. Our partnership earned you £X in commission during this time last year and we’d love to see that kind of success again!”
By automating this and using AI to apply the relevant information to each partner’s communication, you’re delivering critical information they can act on, rather than sending a standard newsletter, which is the usual approach. Ultimately, it’s about using personalization the right way.
What advice would you give to affiliate marketers on amplifying their performance using marketing automation?
Firstly, before you hit the automation button, make sure that it’s pointed at something that adds value and delivers what you want. Secondly, apply the ‘Don’t Repeat Yourself’ software development principle. If you’re doing certain activities multiple times a day, think about how you can streamline these. Then start with a proof of concept around what can be automated by using the plethora of free and paid tools out there. Companies like impact.com who offer enterprise-grade automation solutions that will take you to the next level, but you don’t have to wait until you’ve got that in place – there are plenty of small steps you can take now to automate parts of your programme.
Thank you, Alex! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
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impact.com, the world’s leading partnership management platform, is transforming the way businesses manage and optimize all types of partnerships—including traditional rewards affiliates, influencers, commerce content publishers, B2B, and more. The company’s powerful, purpose-built platform makes it easy for businesses to create, manage, and scale an ecosystem of partnerships with the brands and communities that customers trust to make purchases, get information, and entertain themselves at home, at work, or on the go. To learn more about how impact.com’s technology platform and partnerships marketplace is driving revenue growth for global enterprise brands such as Walmart, Uber, Shopify, Lenovo, L’Oreal, Fanatics and Levi’s.