Season 02 / Episode 021
Affiliate Marketing, Leadership, and a Commodore 64 with Richard Dennys
With Richard Dennys - CEO, Webgains
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Today’s conversation is with Richard Denny’s, CEO of Webgains. I learned that Richard and I share a ton. From our first computers (both Commodores) to hours spent coding very simple programs in basic, to our desire to lift people up through education and training.
I think Richard’s bio on LinkedIn says it all “Still a proud owner of a Sinclair ZX81 and Spectrum, used to copy out pages of BASIC code for RPGs from magazines into my Commodore 64 in the 1980s, went to University, taught myself HTML and started one of the world’s largest websites in the 1990s, founded then folded an online travel start-up (before that was a word) in the 2000s, helped to accelerate other start-ups and teach start-up founders in the 2010s and now in the 2020s proudly run Webgains.
Work Hard; Be Kind; Have Fun. That’s it really.”
We discussed a broad range of topics, including:
- His origin story into affiliate marketing
- Nerding out on data
- The impact of investment in affiliate marketing
- Changes in the affiliate channel
- The change he saw that led him to embrace the channel after previously rejecting it
- Big Media and Affiliate Marketing
- Leading through turbulence and the 3 Horizons
I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation and there really is something for everyone here.
Thank you Richard!
About Our Guest
As the CEO of Webgains, Richard is responsible for the strategic and operational management of the company across all global markets.
Richard’s personal motto of ‘Never Stop Learning’ is entwined in the brand values of Webgains and shapes the rapid growth and transformation of the affiliate network. A renowned accelerator, Richard inspires his team to deliver exceptional service and develop proprietary technical and platform delivery efficiencies, strengthening Webgains’ position as one the industry leading and fastest growing high performance affiliate marketing networks. Webgains’ record-breaking results year after year provide testament to this.
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Well, hey, listeners. I am Jamie Birch, your host of the Profitable Performance Marketing podcast and the CEO and founder of JEB Commerce, an award-winning affiliate management agency coming to you today with a great interview with Richard Dennys, the CEO of Webgains affiliate marketing network over in the UK.
Before I tell you about this episode, I just want to make sure you know that you have help available to you. If you’re trying to determine how your affiliate program changes in the current landscape, how you react to new consumer behaviors and new macro factors going on in our space, we would love to help you. Don’t forget that you have two ways to get that help. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org. Or you can go to calendly.com/jamiebirch. You can set up 15 minutes with me personally and we can talk about your problems. No cost. No obligation. Just want to help you out. Something further that we do in addition to the podcast to help everybody out there.
Today’s guest is awesome. Richard Dennys is the CEO of Webgains affiliate network. We dive into a lot of great conversation, everything from his priority in learning, educating his staff, training his staff. But not only his staff, training anybody who wants to learn about affiliate marketing in their academy at Webgains.
It’s a really great conversation. And I found that Richard and I have a lot of core values that we share, a lot of experiences. We talk about the Commodore 64 and the Commodore 128, and coding BASIC in the 80s, and everything up to today. We talk about people’s hidden superpowers. How to lead in the times that we’ve just gone through, what that looks like. But we also talk about smart commissioning on affiliate products. We talk about how this channel is definitely a disruptive industry. And how investment in the channel has changed things.
We definitely talk about different affiliate models, influencers, things like that. I really appreciated this conversation. It definitely rekindled and re-inspired me to do some things more with our training program that we had intended to do. Richard, thank you for that. But I’m going to get out of the way so you guys can listen to my conversation with Richard Dennys.
[00:03:16] Jamie Birch: Well, good morning for me. Good evening to you, Richard. Thank you so much for joining us on the podcast. How are you doing today?
[00:03:24] Richard Dennys: Thanks, Jamie. It’s great to be here. No, I’m good. I’m good. It’s 6pm where I am. So it’s not too late. Still kind of technically a working day.
[00:03:31] JB: Gotcha, gotcha. One of the things I love doing this podcast for […] you get to discover new things about people. And usually I’m the OG on the call, on the podcast. But you have been around as long, if not longer. And we share something that I didn’t find out until I was looking through your LinkedIn profile in your about section. We are brothers in Commodore.
[00:03:58] RD: Okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah. I learned on my Commodore 64. Same as you, right?
[00:04:02] JB: Well, I had a 128. I had the vast upgrade in computing power with the Commodore 128.
[00:04:10] RD: And we had the tape machine. You had to press it and wait for the whole thing to load and – Yeah, fun times. BASIC. Yeah.
[00:04:17] JB: I had the immensely large 5.5 floppy drive okay that was external with that weighed probably pounds.
[00:04:27] RD: Okay .Yeah, those are the days. I mean, you think about what you can do now on a phone, or even my watch, or an iPhone, or whatever it may be. This is infinitely, infinitely more powerful than those times. I mean, I started with the ZX81, which is basically back in the early 80s, or middle 80s, and you could self-program it. But I think it was 32k or something like that was the capacity. You were literally doing 10 lines of code and then that was the end of that.
[00:04:53] JB: Yeah, I actually had to look up what that ZX81was and the spectrum. That was a little before my time. But I saw the Commodore and I went, “That’s like the holy grail. The legit first computer that we had.” And, yeah, you’re right. I had a cousin who was a computer program major at Syracuse at the time. And so, she’d sent me books on BASIC. And so, I remember like I just sat there all night trying to create things.
[00:05:23] RD: And you used to get magazines, and they had the code written down on a piece of paper that you then would type in and then run it yourself. And it would just like about 10 seconds. It’d take you four hours to type it all in.
[00:05:34] JB: Yeah. And then you’d miss one character.
[00:05:39] RD: Yeah, but that’s the whole principle of computer programming, right? You need accuracy. You need to not make mistakes. It was a good grounding. And then I moved on – Atari came along. That was much more consumptive. And then BBC Microcomputer came into schools, and we had to share that. And then at university we had word processors. But yeah, it was slow for sure. And then all of a sudden the whole world changed.
My first job, there were no computers, in 1998. And then there were, yeah, a couple more places where you had one. It wasn’t a long time until everyone had their own. Yeah, I’ve seen it. I’ve seen it. And I used to code HTML back in the day, and the first website was in 1996. Yeah, I’ve seen it. Seen the Internet come. Seen affiliate marketing joined fray. And, really, affiliate was the first commercial model when you were doing commissions. It was before display advertising. It’s before search marketing. The referral model was first, CJ, and TD, and the other guys that came along. And everyone frowned on commercial models on the Internet. It was all like, “No, no, no. This is free. This is for everybody. There’s no money to be made.” And then, all of a sudden, people started buying search on, first of all, Yahoo, and then Google, and then, yeah, we’re all making money.
[00:06:41] JB: Yeah, that trend of it’s not commercial. And then all of a sudden – Yeah, it totally is. That kind of continued to echo through different partners. I’m sure you’ve worked with different bloggers. Or like, “No. This is pure we’re not going to monetize.” And then one day they’re charging fees to be included. And that seems to be something that’s gone over time.
[00:07:02] RD: It’s a circle, right? You’ve got open AI at the moment. I see they’ve gone from being the great white things saying it’s all free, and now they’re starting to do commercial models. And then even Web3 is designed to be the open Internet for everybody without commerciality. But it’s coming eventually.
[00:07:17] JB: Someone will figure out how to monetize, and commercialize that, and keep it growing. Tell me, outside of the Commodore 64 origin, I’d love to talk about that forever. Talk to me about what’s your origin story and how did you get into affiliate marketing.
[00:07:37] RD: Gosh. By mistake. I’ve worked in – I mean, really, back in the start, I went to university late. I went at 22. I was working in a bar in a restaurant in a seaside town in Devon. And I had enough of school, and I didn’t really want to do much and just had a good time. And then my brother went to university, and I saw, “Hey, this isn’t just about learning. This is about having a great time.”
When the Gulf War came in 1990 and the economies just tanked, there was no work anywhere. No one had any money. It was a good time to go to university. And it just so happened that I got in as a textile major. But then I switched to a marketing major in my second year and really enjoyed it, and then started to do well there. And it just kind of stimulated my brain.
And there was one guy who was talking to me about data analysis and Excel spreadsheets, which was – Well, it wasn’t Excel. It was Lotus 1-2-3. And I found that I was really drawn to that. And I don’t know. It sounds very geeky. And this sort of analytical nature that I had in my brain, it was maybe latent came through. I spent the whole rest of my degree looking at data.
And then that led me to a holiday job with a friend of my mother, and I was working on data analysis. And then I carried that through. That was my pathway. The next job I started up the first website, which is a big accountancy firm and became, at one point, the biggest UK website in terms of traffic numbers. It was a data analysis on cricket players, of all things.
And then I moved west. I was in London, and I moved west to a very early stage pure play community builder, online community builder. And again, that was all about building websites that were very engaging for other people. And left that to set up my own travel business, online travel. Learned all about how to start a business. It was back in the days before the word startup or anything was even in vogue. It was in 2002.
Grew it fast, and then it hit the wall in 2007 with the crisis. And then started doing consultancy. And the consultant work I did was a lot of turnaround. A lot of VC-burned money. Quickly learning how to turn around businesses. Did that for a while. And then along came an opportunity with Webgains. And I’d never really worked in or around affiliate [marketing] at all. I’d run it as a channel with a couple of brands. I’d also rejected it as a sales opportunity for one of the publishing companies I’d worked for, because it didn’t seem like good money in advance. And Webgains came along. And it was just a case of looking at the business thing whether or not it was viable. Seeing whether we could grow it. And yeah, that was six years ago.
The thing that I found when I first came to Webgains, was one of the things that I could see was that there was business coming through the door. There were merchants and advertisers of brands that you would dream about in any other channel or any other business that were just walking through the door. I won’t go into particular names. But they’re all very household names, those 2000 brands. And having come in from ad tech and previous roles in some kind of web builder stuff, one of those brands would have been delightful, let alone hundreds that were coming in month after month.
The team was very nice. We made some changes, but eventually worked hard on that, and then transformed the technology, transformed the branding. Yeah, that’s where we are today really, and doing pretty well.
[00:10:44] JB: Awesome. Yeah, I fell into affiliate marketing by accident as well. Tell us a little bit about Webgains. What is the USP for Webgains?
[00:10:54] RD: Webgains is – We are very good at what we do. We don’t try and do everything. We’re not on some kind of imperial overstretch trying to do every sector and every country. We really do well as a network in the UK, Germany, France, Spain, mainland Europe. We have a very subtle team. Like I say, we’ve been around 15 years. A good backend. We don’t have any problems with – Without time, we have a 99.99%. We’re very, very resilient. Very reliable. We don’t try and do crazy things. We’ve invested in some AI technology, which has been pretty nice. It means that we can make it very efficient for our merchants and affiliates to find each other and to make money from each other.
One of the things that I realized when I arrived was that we were quite reliant on a couple of clients and a couple of affiliates. And having gone through turnaround situations where I’ve seen that concentration risk many times as being almost, well, the killer of many businesses. One of the things that we were trying to do was to balance that out. We never like it with anyone more than 10% share of our business.
And as a result, we’ve concentrated on a kind of long tail. I would say 75%, 80%, you know, 20%, 80%. 80% percent of our businesses is small merchants, is middle market, long tail SMEs. Not startups, because startups are very, very high risk, and they churn a lot. But scale-ups is where we are. We offer managed service and self-managed services. The idea is –
And we’ve got a very, very good staff. We spend a huge amount of our time, money and energy on training. We don’t want to be the biggest. We don’t want to be the cheapest. We just want to be the best. I know it sounds very trite. But we really try hard on our reputation and our testimonials and making sure that we’ve got customer satisfaction scores, and we’ve got recommendation engines and all sorts of things. And I look at all of them. And I really do, and we all do as a kind of management team, and the account managers, and the backend. Everybody takes it very seriously. And we love it when we see positivity from our stakeholders.
Our USP really is just to get the job done well at a good price and to perform on behalf of our clients, advertisers and stakeholders. We’re not flashy. We are just solid, good, reliable […] make money for everybody.
[00:13:04] JB: That’s awesome. And I know we talked on our prep call, and I’ve seen in your LinkedIn post, you guys talk about being the best trained staff. And your ethos is “never stop learning.” Why is that your ethos? Why is that so important for the organization?
[00:13:21] RD: If you think about competition, if you think about churn of clients and your, if you’re investing in your people, which is what you have to do to be a high-level service business, you want them to stick around. We found the profile of a lot of our staff are pretty junior, they’re early stage careers. They’re up to sort of in their 20s. And the biggest competitor for them is not necessarily our competitors. It’s other adventures.
It’s people that say, “Actually, I’ve had enough of work. I want to go somewhere else. I want to go traveling. I want to have another –” And of course, before the pandemic, then that’s pretty much what people do.
We try and make their journey with us, on Webgains, as more career adventure. I know, in my early stage of my career, learning was very important. But even now, I still am a massive sucker for learning. I love it. I’m trying to learn more languages. I was just learning how to do something just now. I’m just completely obsessed with a thirst for knowledge, if that’s what it is. And we try and attract those people.
When we hire them, we give them various different psychometric tests. And one of the indicators is a desire to learn. And once we know that people are in and they’re developing, then of course it helps us, it helps our clients, and it helps the business. And it also makes them feel part of something moving forward. We set up the academy three years ago, four years ago. And we’ve had thousands of people through that, whether that’s Webgains or whether it’s non-Webgains. It’s open to everybody. We just want everyone to learn, and improve and get to know the industry better. Raise a reputation. Push out the fraud. Just do things the right way.
[00:14:55] JB: I’d love to hear more about the academy. One thing that we’ve experienced, especially the last two years, has been a real difficulty in finding individuals who know what we do. One of the things we’ve toyed with is opening up our training to anybody so that we can – We love to help others start their career. And that doesn’t necessarily mean just at JEB. But also to help us build a bench of people we know who’ve been through this training that we can kind of pull from.
Tell me, it sounds like you guys are doing something – You’ve already done this. Tell me more about the academy.
[00:15:30] RD: Well, I mean, the background to it really was the one of the previous roles I had before Webgains, was working for an organization, which is now called Tech Nation. But it was called Tech City in the UK. It was run in conjunction with the UK government and actually sponsored by the then Prime Minister David Cameron. And they realized that in order to be competitive with the world, what the UK could do very well with was to skill-up with digital skills the whole of the UK, and especially people who would normally otherwise not have access to education.
One of the projects I ran is called the Digital Business Academy. It was content from the Cambridge Judge Business School and University College of London. Cost a lot of money to build these courses. They’re all online and they’re all free. Literally, you sign up, you’d go through these six modules. All about learning the basics of digital marketing, digital business. And tens of thousands of people went through that course. And then the idea was we incentivized the learning through rewards.
If you completed your modules, you could qualify for an internship with one of our partner organizations. You could get discounts on tech stuff. And as a result, it surfaced some really interesting people that would never have normally had those opportunities as a kind of learning resource, but also an – It was a social mobility thing. Because we found loads of kids that were just completely left out from education in the mainstream.
Hooking into the social media course, or build a website course, or how to be an entrepreneur course that literally had no opportunities other than that. And then all of a sudden, they’ll get accelerated into a super startup. And then all of a sudden, they’re a product manager or they’re a marketing manager. It was an absolutely incredible thing to see.
When I joined Webgains, you could just see that there was a massive gap in the whole industry of what’s going on. Because it’s so competitive, and everyone’s slightly, I’d say, complacent. Or we do the weird things that we do, or blah-blah-blah. But I just thought, “Well, it can’t be that difficult to create some basic 101s in affiliate marketing.” We did six courses. We used exactly the same techniques as the Digital Business Academy. We opened it for everybody. There was no trick in it. There’s no heavy selling in there. Of course, it had our branding.
And I think we got about a thousand sign-ups in the first four months or something. It was really, really successful. And that was really organic. We weren’t really pushing it other than social. We didn’t buy any media to promote it. And it just showed us that there was a fantastic opportunity.
And, of course, there’s two things out there. Well, three things, three benefits. One is our staff kit. There’s a standard and consistency of the training. The second thing is that anyone that comes through and gets through it and does very well, we can see them. And therefore, they’re a recruitment opportunity. And then thirdly, clearly, we could see merchants and affiliates that weren’t on our network. And so, there was a sales and business development opportunity. It’s a no-brainer. And it cost a bit of time. And we used the guys that came in who would – Actually, developers on the previous project back in the UK government have now joined us in Webgains, a couple of them.
And so, it was relatively straightforward. It was a quick project. We did it in about five months, I think. And then what that’s iterated into now is we’ve moved on now, and we have live sessions, and we have spotlights on various different people. And actually, we run CPD internally now. We have a CPD program. If you sit on a voice, an internal call, or you’d give a demo, or you can gain CPD points and then obviously helps you in terms of your career advancement.
We insist on everyone doing the basic courses before they’ll even allow a salary review or a promotion. But then, of course, if we see that somebody’s super motivated. There’s a number of expected behaviors we have in the business, whether that’s trying to grow an account, or making sure your quarantine is all checked off, or your pending publishers are approved. There’s a load of sort of expected behaviors that we’re trying to make sure that the academy covers internally.
And then externally, it’s really [about] what makes a good program. What makes you a good manager? Whether you’re an affiliate, whether you’re a merchant, whether you’re in a network, or whether you’re not even in our industry. What are the kinds of things that are the expected behaviors that are going to accelerate your career?
And again, going back to that point about why bother with this? We want to make people engaged in our industry. I think having worked in it six years, which is a pretty short time compared to some people, it’s a fantastic industry. It’s an amazing place, where you’re relying on trust from each other. I will sell for you. You pay me the money on time and at the right amounts. I mean, there’s lots of trust that can be burned there.
We’re trying to build that through the industry. And I’ve been quite critical of people over the years. All I’m trying to do is raise the game. And I’m not saying that I can raise the game or we can raise the game. I’m just saying the game needs raising. There’s lots of dark corners in affiliate, and we’re trying to shine a light on them. Because there’s some bad guys around. And we want to make sure that that’s outshined by the good guys.
[00:20:17] JB: That’s tremendous. And I would disagree with you. I think one person can, one company can raise the bar in the industry. I love so much about what you talked about and how you tied into – You even saw the social value of something like this. One of the things that I’ve run, JEB Return, 18-years-old in October. And the one thing I’ve seen consistently through that is people who have a good foundation and building blocks. They’re ambitious. They’re humble. They’re smart. And they want to improve. They’ve come in. They’ve learned a skill. They stayed with us for maybe three or even seven years. I think the longest employee we had was 10 or 11 years. They’ve stayed with us for a period and then they moved on to their next step. And that next step was much greater financial opportunity. And they were very upwardly mobile.
And what we saw is there were some people, like you said, they just got lost in the education system and they never got there. Not only did it change their life and their advancement, but it completely changed generationally. Now, their generation was – That generation was successful. They were able to live a certain level of life that maybe their family had never achieved before. And their kids see that as normal. And it keeps going.
And so, that, that got so exciting to me of like how can we do that on a broader scale and not just bring people into the affiliate community and give us a pool of players to hire later, but also really impact the community and those populations and classes that don’t have college as an option or a typical path. That was really exciting to me.
[00:22:13] RD: Yeah, yeah, yeah. I mean, they’re self-learning. And if you look at the way that the digital world – I mean, I was reading something earlier about only fans. I mean, only fans has got its detractors and its supporters. But there’s no doubt about it. It’s giving people a route to income earning. And this will also – Eventually, this will sort of spread out from where it is at the moment into much more of a mass appeal.
Going back to my own origin story, I always had ambition. I always had the focus. I always wanted to do well. I just couldn’t get out of the rut I was [in at] 18, 19, 20. I was having fun and having a great time and then all of a sudden hit the wall. And there was nowhere to go. And the only thing – I applied for 11 universities. 10 of them rejected me. And then one guy invited me for a chat. He gave me a chance. And I took my shot. And sometimes that’s just what you need is that one thing that gives you the transformational opportunity and then you grab it.
I could say I was privileged. I didn’t have a particularly tough upbringing. I had a nice childhood. But other people don’t. And education can set you free. Education – It’s all about that. It’s all about knowledge. It’s all about confidence through learning. And if there’s one thing I’m really passionate about is that, with my own children, it’s, “You guys, you just got to keep going. And if it doesn’t work, try a different way and try and learn something else. But just don’t stop learning. If you stop learning, you stop growing, and that’s the end.”
[00:23:31] JB: Yeah. We have so much in common. I also applied to every school in the state of Washington. I swear, I heard some of them laugh when they got my application. And one school let me in. And so much – Where does that drive to learn come from? Was that something – I too, I had a pretty privileged upbringing. But for you, where’s that kind of come from? Has it always been there [and you just] need to learn and then also help and lift other people up?
[00:23:59] RD: Yeah, I don’t know. I mean, that’s a psychological question. I just don’t know. I do remember – I know this is going to sound even more nerdy than the Commodore.
[00:24:09] JB: Bring on the nerd.
[00:24:10] RD: As a kid, I used to read – I mean, this is terrible. I used to read telephone directories, because I was fascinated by the patterns of names. I was fascinated by the types of different names you could have. How many names there were? Just that whole kind of – For me, it was like a novel. And I just was always, always – When I was relaxing, I just used to look through things like that and just look at the information. And I found it absolutely intoxicating, which I know, if somebody’s listening to this, is going to think, “What an absolute nerd.” But I guess it’s a sign of your – My grandfather was quite a successful accountant. He came from pretty much nothing. And after the Second World War, trained in the army to be an accountant and then ended up becoming the top guy in the whole profession. He brought the charter to the ACCA, which is a big organization in the UK, and in fact the world now. He was a guy that got the charter for them to become a regulated body. And he was a very big inspiration for me. And then he died. And that was a catalyst for me to then think, “Just come on. Get on with it. And make your move.”
But, no, I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know. My dad’s a musician. It’s a completely different set of motivators. He’s done quite well in his life without trying that hard, it seems. But he’s a massively talented musician. For me, it’s a completely alien thing. And he’s not data-driven at all. My mother died a long time ago, and she was a very good entrepreneur.
I didn’t have a conventional upbringing. I didn’t really live a 9-to-5 lifestyle. But I did have successful people around me. And they kind of forced a part of me. But I don’t know where the urge to learn was. At school, I absolutely lost it. I loved learning and then I went to a selective grammar school. And then everybody else was smarter than I was. And I got very discouraged. I did very badly in my exams. And then I just lost confidence in learning. It was just going to university, which is not just about subject matter. It’s all about just how to learn and how to appreciate learning. And I mean, again, I remember really enjoying learning about the textile industry around the world and Chinese Multifibre Arrangement, which sounds so dry now. But I just couldn’t get enough of it. It just felt like, from there on, I was always, always fascinated with learning.
In Webgains, we encourage everybody to learn anything they want. We have a training allowance for everybody. They can learn anything. It can be making biscuits. It can be learning Chinese or Mandarin, or it can be learning to fly. It doesn’t have to be anything to do with affiliate marketing. We have training loans. We encourage people to travel to other countries to just absorb the culture of another place just to stretch yourself. That’s really what we have.
Because, again, going back to the point, if you’re learning, you’re growing. And if you’re not learning, you’re not going anywhere. We’d rather have people learning anything than learning nothing.
[00:26:59] JB: Yeah, I’ve always found that even those other endeavors not related to affiliate marketing, whatever I’m learning, I always find something about myself that becomes incredibly valuable to the work that I’m doing. Or it just gets me away, gets my mind lubricated. And things come back from that even if it has nothing to do with the task at hand.
[00:27:27] RD: But there’s also self-esteem from learning. There’s self-confidence. And everyone’s got their self-esteem attached to something. And one of the things I think we’ve struggled with, or human beings have struggled with over the last two years or two-and-a-half years of lockdown, is that there’s been nothing else except for work. And therefore, all your self-esteem is all tied into your job and nothing else. And I think that’s really where we’re coming out of now, is to try and make sure it’s all balanced a bit and people are building their self-esteem. Because you can even have self-esteem through relationships, because you couldn’t meet anybody. And therefore, all it is is your job. And you’re 24/7 thinking about work. And that’s very unhealthy. The self-esteem thing is very important.
My kids, working out where their self-esteem sits and my own self-esteem. What am I proud of? People ask me that all the time. Do you enjoy the job? And what are you most proud of. It’s all little things. I’m not proud of anything big. My self-esteem lies in seeing other people advancing and doing well.
If I see somebody that – And I said this. In fact, this has happened to me recently. A guy I hired a long time ago. A good guy. A really nice guy. He was the boyfriend of our babysitter. And we hired him into the business I was running as a junior guy. And he did well. And he was a good learner. And anyway, a few years later, it turns out – He rings me up and says, “Oh, I’m your new client.” He was head of performance for one of our biggest clients. And it was really nice to see that he’d done really well and continues to do really well.
And I always say to the juniors and the interns, “One day, you’ll be my boss. So I’m going to make sure I’m nice to you.” You’ll always see career ebbs and flows. And as time goes on I see more of that happening.
[00:29:05] JB: That’s so great. And especially for me, too, when we – And we work. Many of our former employees are on the affiliate side now, and we work with them on a regular basis. And it’s great to see, from a distance, how they’ve continued to evolve and grow and do really great things for themselves.
[00:29:22] RD: Yeah, exactly. And I’ll always try and help. And if anyone ever has any kind of, “Oh, what should I do in my career?” Or even in the business, “Should I stay? Should I go? What should I do?” Go your own path and do anything. But I always help people as much as I possibly can. And like I say, you never know where you need that help back in the future. You’re always building the favor bank just for when you need it.
[00:29:41] JB: Totally, totally. You talked a little bit about – We kind of touched on what the last two years have been like and how it’s just been crazy. Managing through this turbulent time has been difficult. We’ve had a hot economy, a pandemic, two years of that. We now have land war going on. How have you managed through that? How have you helped your team keep that ethos of always learning and in a time when we couldn’t sit next to each other? And sometimes it just feels crazy. How have you done that?
[00:30:15] RD: Yeah. How have I done it? And what have we done? One of the first things when I joined Webgains, I realized that everybody was tied to their desks and they had a little nest around them and they had three screens, da-da-da. And we tried very early on to just give everyone laptops so that they could work from home if they wanted to. We tried to free-up and add flexibility to the team many years or a few years before the pandemic hit and everyone was forced to work from home.
Fortunately, for us, when that kind of order came in, and I remember it was the 8th of march, and I’d already decided that we were going to spend a lot of time, well, closing the offices and spending a lot of time at home. We were already ready. We didn’t have to adapt at all. We were luckily agile enough to make that leap pretty quickly.
I can’t remember whether we were already – I think, yeah, I’m pretty sure we were already using Microsoft Teams. And everything was decentralized. And there was no real dramatic flip from pre-pandemic to pandemic. The tricky thing was to make sure everybody was okay. Everybody was surviving.
We employed a clinical psychologist. We offered that to everybody for free to book up to 10 sessions. We’re as flexible as we possibly could be. We had checking calls as a management team every Sunday night just to say what we’re going to do this week and every Wednesday morning. At the beginning, it was every day, just to check in with everybody, seeing they’re okay. And then it was every Wednesday, which I think we still have that call.
And, yeah, we did. And some of the people fell by the wayside. But by and large, everyone stuck together. We continued with our training sessions. We continued with work. And of course, our industry was fairly fortunate. The pandemic was a tailwind. Everybody’s locked down at home. Online sales went crazy. And therefore, financially and professionally, it was a pretty strong time for Webgains and a lot of our competitors.
Going back to my point before about a balanced portfolio, we didn’t have too many travel clients. We didn’t have too many big retailers. We were very middle-market. We’re very online pure play. And they all did pretty well. We had a big acceleration in our numbers.
And I suppose, as lockdown’s opening up now, we’re seeing that settle back to earth. And if you look at the industry, you can see people like Google. Google’s numbers yesterday were a bit flat. And some of these online brands have had very good numbers over the last two years and now coming back to earth again. And it won’t last forever.
And what we’re seeing is, really, we’re kind of going back to normal again. There’s a bit of a lag in persuading people to come back to the offices. But then the question is do we have to get everybody back to the offices? That’s something we’re trying at the moment. In some markets, they’re doing it and it’s okay. In London, it’s a bit more difficult. London is a big city. And traveling in and out of London is not very enjoyable.
But I’ve said, I was on call today. We have a duty to our junior members. We have a duty to our junior staff that aren’t so experienced to pass on our knowledge to each other and to them. And they can’t really do that on a team’s chat. What you need is that asynchronous and synchronous learning. And there’s nothing like sitting between two guys who know what they’re doing when you don’t know what you’re doing. And then just having almost that knowledge by osmosis just by those sort of random questions.
And so, therefore, we can’t just not have anyone together. I don’t think that’s going to work. There is a hybrid model. And the more we can physically spend time with it, the better for our mental health. The more we can spend time physically with it, the better. We’re gregarious people by nature, by species.
[00:33:45] JB: Yeah, yeah. And that’s one thing we’ve been looking at too, is we’ve expanded. Our employees are all over the country right now. And that wasn’t the way we were before. But we’ve done lots of different things to continue the culture and to try and help our junior players. And that’s something really important, I think, leaders need to know. It’s really hard to bring those people up on a Zoom call or a Slack channel.
And so, we’re looking at: how do we augment that with in-person things when everyone is distributed across quite a large geographic area. But I like that, how you said that, that duty to – We have a duty to those juniors to bring them up. And it’s hard to do that on Zoom.
[00:34:33] RD: Yeah. And what we don’t want as well as people coming to the office and just sitting on teams calls. That isn’t really what it’s about. But what we want is the water cooler, the kitchen, the crazy office games, that gossip from the TV shows. Whenever I go in the office, I don’t talk about work with people. I ask them how they’re doing. I ask them about their dog, about their family, about their holidays, and just allow them to talk about – And all I’m trying to do is find out a bit more about their non-work personality, because that’s what we’re looking for, these stars in the rough. I have an interest in people’s hidden superpowers. Everyone’s got a hidden superpower that they don’t tell you about. And I just want to know about that. Not because I’m nosy or I’m intrusive. I want them to shine it out. And I want them to attach their self-esteem to that. Not to just how many – I mean, of course, it’s important to do your job. But just not – Just that is forever.
[00:35:24] JB: Are you enjoying the show thus far? We cover so many different strategies and stories on the podcast, sometimes it can be difficult to keep up. We get it. It’s why my team and I compiled the very best strategies, and we counted 20 of them, in affiliate marketing programs and put them together for you so you can assess the health of your affiliate program and be able to optimize it for the best possible results. You can get that guide at jebcommerce.com/strategies.
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[00:36:28] RD: I got a friend of mine who I’ve worked with twice, hired her twice. And now, all of a sudden, she always said to me she wanted to write a book. And now she’s written a book. And now it’s in top sellers in Canada and it’s doing really well in the world. And they’re the hidden dreams that people have that actually is what really is driving them. And if you can sort of tap into that, then you’re a winner. And great story. Really good story. And there’s people like that all over the place, but they just don’t tell anyone.
[00:36:53] JB: I love that hidden superpower. Well, you can’t say that without me asking. What’s yours?
[00:36:59] RD: I speak a few languages. I speak a few languages badly. And I absolutely love that. I love being able to drop into a city and have a conversation with a taxi driver, or a shop assistant, or whatever and ask them what their life’s like. And I speak French, and a bit of German, and a bit of Italian, and now slowly learning Spanish, a few words of Croatian. I just really enjoy being around meeting people and talking to them in their own language. And sometimes that’s difficult. If you go to Berlin and try and speak German, you’re going to get English back. If you go to Paris to speak French, you don’t. And similarly, in Spain. But it gives you color to your life. It gives you an interest in what else is going on. It gives you empathy for the world. I mean, it doesn’t matter where you are. If you just try and meet them in the middle a little bit, then you’re going to get a lot more back. I would say that was mine.
[00:37:52] JB: Awesome. I love that. We love to travel. And one of the things we’re going to do next, now that we can travel again, is we want to travel to some non-English speaking countries. And that’s the one thing we want to do, is we want to be able to converse with the people and go and experience the culture. It’s hard to do that when you don’t speak the language.
[00:38:10] RD: No. Exactly. You’re absolutely right. I know you’ve got lots of languages in the US. I mean, you don’t have to go far. You’ve got Spanish and you’ve got all sorts of other languages. And even, there’s the pockets of German speakers, and pockets of French speakers. And there’s languages in the US.
[00:38:24] JB: Definitely. We don’t have to travel too far.
[00:38:26] RD: No.
[00:38:27] JB: One of the questions I had for you is – And we talked about in the prep call, that I personally would love to hear how you do this. How do you balance as the CEO the immediate fire in front of you? Definitely, we had ample opportunity to confront different fires during the pandemic. How do you balance that with long-term planning? How do you make sure that you’re planning for the long term, but also tackling the monster right in front of you?
[00:38:58] RD: Yeah. I would say – There’s a guy I’m a big disciple of. He’s called Geoffrey Moore. He wrote a book a few years ago called Crossing the Chasm. And then he wrote another few, and there’s another one called Escape Velocity. And then there’s – I’m a big sort of disciple of his work. And I don’t know whether it’s his concept or he borrowed it from someone else, but he talks about three horizons, and the three horizon strategies.
You have your first horizon, which is BAU, business as usual. You’re getting through the quarter. You have your second horizon, which is your kind of strategy and where you’re going. And then you have your third horizon, which is horizontal. It’s where are we [and what are we] headed for? The AI staff, and the new technologies, and working the cloud, or even the Web3 stuff, that’s definitely horizon 3.
I try to balance that. Obviously, BAU, we’ve got a fantastic team. We’ve got a fantastic set of senior managers, leaders and directors, as well as a great bunch of PMs. Really, everyone understands the day-to-day. I don’t have to do too much on horizon one. Our strategy is working. We lose clients. We win clients. We lose affiliates. We win affiliates. We we grow and we grow. But horizon one for me, I’m pretty fortunate in terms of I have a great COO. I have great MDs. They know what they’re doing. They’re very experienced, and they’re very effective. Balancing horizon one for me is fine.
Horizon two, I find very interesting. I find myself in that quite a lot and I have to draw myself away from it sometimes. And that’s really about building the next version of Webgains, whether that’s from a technology point of view, whether it’s M&A conversation, or whether it’s expanding into new markets. That’s the kind of happy hunting ground for me.
And then the horizon 3 very enjoyable. It’s just kind of reading up on what’s going on. NFTs, Web3. It used to be AIs. Now, AI is now sort of BAU for us. And just anticipating I mean even things like the Ukrainian War, geopolitics. Where should we be looking out for? What are the early warnings? In my head, that’s how it works.
And we spent a lot of time as a merchant team talking about horizon 2. And I welcome input from the rest of the company or elsewhere on where they think horizon 3 will be for us. If that makes sense.
[00:41:19] JB: It does. And definitely, I just brought that book up. I think I read it a long time ago. But definitely going to bring that up.
[00:41:26] RD: It talks about the various different powers of industry. And it’s just evergreen. It’s a bit like marketing. I learned the four Ps of marketing. Now, there’s like a 5000-piece of marketing. But for me, price, product, place, promotion is never going to change. And it’s from the 80s. And the original Tom Peters stuff, excellence in quality. Maybe I’m just stuck in the 80s and 90s. But those things don’t go away. They can get reformed, and you can have an Internet version of them, or there could be some new thing. But at the end of the day, humans are humans. We all have the same hierarchy of needs. And that hasn’t changed. I’m a pretty basic guy.
[00:42:04] JB: Let’s talk about change. Talk to me about how you have seen affiliate marketing change. You talked about, early on, like you had evaluated the affiliate channel as a publisher and rejected it. Now you’re at Webgains. What have you seen change since that rejection and then since starting at Webgains?
[00:42:23] RD: When you’re in a media house, which I was, and consulted on for a few years, it’s all about money. What you don’t want to do is – Where’s the risk? Where’s the risk? When you’re selling media, you want the advertiser to take the risk and pay for the media before they make the sale. That’s what you want as a publisher.
Of course, what happened there was the CPMs, the cost per thousands, and the CPCs, just started to erode, because we had such an explosion of inventory to sell. Then you had the sell-side platforms. And you just had so much content that you were trying to monetize. The CPAs just went to zero.
I remember when you could get a hundred pounds a thousand impressions. I’m back to those days. And now, a hundred pounds could buy you millions and millions and millions of inventory. That’s died. That’s died as a model. And now, you see a lot of these news media or whatever it is, they’re now moving into subscriptions, because they’ve seen the value of their inventory just go to nothing.
And then now I’m in affiliate. I clearly have got a much better understanding of an idea of the ECPMs. Rather than CPAs and CPMs, the value of a page, and the value of a user, and the value of a conversion, which has been really interesting. And I’m fully behind the value of affiliate. The risk is then being taken by the media house or the media owner, and then they get paid afterwards. But when they’ve got a lot of media, a lot of inventory, then they can afford to do that. And then, obviously, the different types of affiliates. You’ve got the tech affiliates. You’ve got the retargeters, the remarketers. CPA is no longer a dirty word. It’s not a dirty model. It’s a passive income model. And people like that. It’s difficult to plan it. But if you layer it properly, then it can be a very, very powerful income stream.
And then the influencers have come along, and they’re driving a particular trail in what they’re doing. And that’s been fascinating to see. And then you’ve got Instagram coming. And now you can monetize that through your stores. The iteration of the innovation and the monetization of all these things is fascinating to see.
Our challenge, really, as a network, is to keep on top of that stuff. To make sure the way we track it is accurate and it’s honest, which is, in these days of data privacy, and cookie blocking, and intelligent tracking prevention from mobile devices, is difficult. But then that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. We just need to innovate better all the time.
Innovations need to stay in that. We need to be honest, and chat properly, and bill properly, and pay properly. Those are the things, the table stakes to be in the game. They’re no longer differentiators, say, “Oh, we can pay you weekly. Not monthly.” We should all be able to pay affiliates daily if we want to. We should be able to pay them in any currency. And also, our merchants should pay on time. And they shouldn’t say, “Oh, we can’t pay you now.” You’ve already had the sales. You’ve had the sales. You should pay the commissions.
[00:45:19] JB: You got the money.
[00:45:19] RD: Yeah, you’ve got the money. You should pay the commissions. We don’t like it when people do that. We really hate it when a merchant doesn’t pay and then move somewhere else. That’s the biggest bugbear I have. And when I arrived, it was like, “What? They’re closing a program.” They move somewhere else and they’re not playing affiliates. I mean, that’s just stupid business. That seems to be slightly under control.
[00:45:38] JB: That used to be a big, big problem in the early 2000s.
[00:45:41] RD: Exactly, yeah. But I think the word gets around. And networks don’t necessarily talk to each other very much, and only if they have to. But if there’s one thing we talk about, it’s not allowing that to happen. Pay your commissions. Pay your override and move on. Or pay whatever your platform you’re using. Just make sure you pay.
The bad issue is something that’s very annoying in the industry, because you’re paying after the sale. But if you manage it properly, and if you’ve got a good network, then you’ll be on top of it. And everyone gets paid on time.
Yeah. What else has changed? That’s changed. There’s been a – Over the last few years, there’s been a bit of a technical arms race. We’ve had the networks that now is no longer good enough to have an okay performance. You cannot be down. You have to be fully online. You can’t have a service system. You can’t have a sort of mainframe system anymore like some of the old systems used to be.
Obviously, the income is like the Partnerizes or Performance Horizons before that. An impact radius, and now impact. They’re VC-backed. They’re loss-making. They’re keeping everyone on their toes. We’ll see how long that lasts. The prices have gone down. That’s a big challenge. It’s certainly the top of the market. There’s a big race for the business at the bottom of the market with the startups. But in the end, that’s saying, turnover for vanity, profit for sanity, cash reality. That’s where it sits.
If you run out of cash –
[00:46:57] JB: Say that again. Say that again. I haven’t heard that.
[00:47:00] RD: I mean, you turnover for vanity. Turnover for vanity. I mean, have you watched WeCrashed? The program about WeWork on the Apple TV? WeWork was a fantastic business, but they bought turnover. They were buying their business. They’re buying market share.
When the valuations went the wrong way, everyone got funny. They wouldn’t put any more money in. They run out of money. They went from a valuation of whatever it was, 63 billion, down to 8 billion. And of course, yes, they did float. But in the end, cash is reality. Turnover vanity, profit sanity, cash reality. If you run out of cash, you run out of options, and the game’s over.
In the end, the cost of servicing an affiliate client or paying out an affiliate, there is a cost to it. It doesn’t matter what you do. And you can make that as efficient as possible. Because our industry is an industry of relationships, it always is. I mean, if you’re a 10-week-old startup, you’re not going to get on eBates. You’re not going to get on Payback. You’re not going to get on TopCashBack. Because no one’s heard of you. You can’t just plug it in and press a button and say, “Yeah, here’s my offer to these guys.” It’s a relationship business.
And therefore, what we’re trying to automate as much as we can around those relationships. But in the end, I don’t think we’ll ever get rid of the human part of affiliate marketing. That’s been there forever. It’s a very difficult thing. It’s not programmatic. There are ways you could probably put programmatic units in so that you could optimize on social media or on content size. But those offers and discount sites, they’re not going to give you media, unless they’re going to convert.
And there’s so many brands. There are tens of thousands of brands. We’ve got 26 million products in our database. What is a cashback site? Or where does a discount badger site go and find that stuff? We’re trying to automate it. But until human beings are completely out of the race, then they’re very valuable.
And again, going back to the never stop learning thing. We realize that human relationships are so important in our industry. And that probably is going to remain. If we can create people who are using them, we always say it’s all about minds and brains, not your hands. We want to automate. We want to optimize what’s in your head, not on your fingertips. Because otherwise, it’s just admin. And nobody wants to sit there doing admin the whole time. It’s all about that.
Yeah, going back to the changes I’ve seen. At the moment, there’s a big race to the bottom with some parts of the market. But it’s not sustainable. We’re in the long game. We’re definitely second and third horizon on that.
[00:49:29] JB: Gotcha. Gotcha. That’s great. You mentioned influencers. What does Webgains – How do you deal with influencers? How do you help make those transactions happen?
[00:49:40] RD: Webgains speaking, we’re not necessarily doing deals directly with the influencers themselves. We do have some, but not that many. But we go through sub-networks, or we go through agents and brokers. Well, there’s definitely – We have sneakerheads. We call them sneakerheads. They’re the influencers around. Trainers and sneakers in the US. There are definitely people. But we don’t do the kind of super, super long tail of the micro influences just yet. We don’t see a lot of corporate. But that doesn’t mean it’s not going to change. And we’re always looking at that. We’re always looking at partners. We’re always looking at things. It’s a difficult one.
And the conversion journey is very hard. I feel quite sorry sometimes for these guys. Because unless they’ve got that impulse purchase thing that they’re going on, and you buy it right there and then. It’s very difficult to reward an early stage influencer for something that then goes through six levels of evaluation and finally ends up with Klarner doing a broken-down payment system, and they get the last click commission. We look very hard at that.
One of the things that I kind of laugh – Not laugh at, but I almost despair, is this over-reliance. Or not over-reliance. I can’t explain it. But it’s just kind of we have to reward everything all the time and be absolutely accurate on what stage of the journey the purchase was made.
There’s a lot of intelligence that could be put into that, into where actually that moment of truth was where somebody makes the purchase decision. And those early stage influences do lose out a lot. But then again, very few people will buy immediately off an influencer.
And a lot of stuff goes into cashback a voucher and payment splits simply because they’re at the end of the basket. And there’s a box that says, “Put your voucher code in here.” People go away and look for voucher code and then they get commission. We need to innovate around that. We need to be better on that, because that’s not really fair.
[00:51:28] JB: That’s kind of the problem with all the data we have accessible through what we do, is sometimes we rely too much on the data instead of the gut check of like, “Hey, we’re going to reward this top a funnel guy because he started this journey.” And you may not have data on how it worked. But you got to sometimes just make a gut check decision on who gets credit for that.
[00:51:52] RD: Absolutely. Absolutely. And we can see everything. We can see all the clicks. The way our technology works, we can pretty much see the whole journey everywhere. But it’s very difficult to then translate that into actually accurate decision-making and accurate reward. And that’s really where we put a lot of innovation dollars into right now, is to improve that. But also, building commission schemes on products.
One of the things that I kind of see, with my CMO hat on, because I was CMO for a few years in different brands, you don’t really want to be paying a flat commission across everything. Though, you’ll have products that are limited edition, or short run, or high-value, you want to be building commissioning around specific SKUs or SKU groups for certain periods of time.
The whole sort of dynamic – We call it smart commissioning. We have some modules around smart commissioning. And we want to be able to build innovations around – Almost set and forget around that. And demand generation. And if something unexpectedly sells out really quickly, then we want to be able to just put some automatic rules in there to say, “Actually, we’re going to drop the commissions on this,” just to keep it fair. As opposed to saying, “Well, actually, where on that journey was that decision made?” Which we’ll do that too. But we see it as less important as actually optimizing that product journey.
[00:53:14] JB: Do you find the affiliates have a problem with that automated commission change?
[00:53:19] RD: Well, yes. I had this conversation from the guy that developed it. Said, “Well, what are you going to do?” Because, actually, you’re killing yourself, because you might drop your commissions and you make your overriding commissions. But I said, “Well, what happens if a merchant doesn’t use a class of affiliate because it’s a much higher volume?” And all of a sudden, we can set rules that mean that they can bring them in. And that’s what’s happened. We’ve got a very big brand that never used to work with Comparison Shopping, CSS. Because of the rules we’ve set, we now have them working very happily with CSS and under particular guidance. And we’re making more money – Or they’re paying out more commissions as a result. And therefore, we make more override.
Do the affiliates like it? It gives them more reach. It gives them more options. It gives them access to more emotions they probably wouldn’t get before. Not a lot of people on a brand side like discounting anything. They want to sell at full price. If you’re selling your stuff, you’re developing your products, you never develop your stuff with a discount in mind. You’re discounting because you want to accelerate sales, or you’ve got a particular promotion, or you’ve got some stock in the warehouse. But really, if you can be smart about it, you can probably set things up so that you can avoid discounting as much as you can or discounting when you really want to and need to and where it can optimize across selling to something else, as opposed to discounting for discounting sake.
[00:54:35] JB: That’s definitely something that we’re seeing. My last question for you is there’s been a lot of investment in the channel the last two years. A lot of equity firms and VCs coming in and some aggregation. How do you see that as impacting the channel?
[00:54:52] RD: Overall, positive. I think it’s about time. I stood up in a presentation I think the first season I was working, and I said, “Listen, guys. This is a very comfy industry. Everyone’s having a lovely time.” I worked in disruptive industries for many years, and this is a classic example of a disruptable industry. If you don’t get better, you’re going to get disrupted and you’re going to be out. And you can see a bit of that now because there’s some consolidation of affiliates. There’s consolidation of networks. There was one today, a German network got another one. And that’s what we’ve seen.
First of all – Well, both impact and partner are two examples of where they have heavily invested in their platform. They’ve heavily invested in their relations with agencies. And it’s put pressure on everybody else, whether that’s staffing pressure, or margin pressure. And therefore, it forces everybody else to be more efficient. It forces everybody else to really focus on what they’re good at and build offensive as well as defensive strategies.
Will that be there forever? I don’t know. Obviously, those two people I’ve mentioned, and the VCs behind them are happy with their growth trajectory and they support them with their continuous investment and through their rights profitability and whatever happens at the end, whether it’s an IPO, or trade sale, or whatever, Good for them. I think the industry is big enough and strong enough for multiple players. It’s good to have a choice.
If you look at the actual unit cost of delivering affiliate campaigns plus – From a technical point of view, plus the unit cost of the hours that’s spent on building and developing affiliate relationships, there is a marginal cost and a marginal utility. Underneath that is just kind of false business. I would say, if you’re building your business as an agency or a network on a loss-making business, you need to basically do the horizon plan for when those costs rise, because they will.
The network – This is a bit of a sort of self-elevation. The network offer is a one-stop shop. We’re all investing in our technology. We’re all invested in our abilities. We’re all investing in our customer services. We’re all investing in our clients and stakeholders. I think there’s a long term plan for that. There’s definitely space. We’re doing pretty well. And we’ll continue to do pretty well. We’re well-set-up for it. We’re not overextended. We make profits in every market. We only work in a market that makes profits. We’ve closed them down in the past. We’re attractive as an employer. We do bring in great people. And we develop them very heavily.
Yeah, where do I see the VC-backed businesses? I think this is a really good wake-up call for everybody. And then I’m very interested to see how it all plays out in the end. There will be an end.
[00:57:34] JB: Yeah. Richard, if someone’s listening to this and they want to learn more about Webgains or continue the conversation with you, what’s the best way for them to find out more about Webgains and then to either follow or contact you?
[00:57:48] RD: Well, of course, there’s Webgains. We have a website, webgains.com. The academy is academy.webgains.com. You can have a look there. I’m on LinkedIn. I’m very happy to speak to anyone at any time. We welcome anything from anyone. Always interesting to meet new people.
[00:58:02] JB: Awesome. Well, I have learned a ton today. You have sort of rekindled my inspiration for our training program here. And I really appreciate that. I’m definitely going to go check out the academy and everything. Really enjoyed this conversation, from Commodore 64, to investment in the future. I appreciate your time today. And I will include those links in our show notes so that our listeners can continue the conversation with you and with Webgains.
Thank you so much.
[00:58:32] RD: Thanks, Jamie. Thanks very much.
[00:58:38] JB: Well, first off, I just realized I say that with every podcast outro. But first off, Richard, thank you so much for this conversation. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you, hearing your story, your evolution. How you lead. And really, how a lot of things impacted you to get you to this point.
And hey, who doesn’t love a story that starts with a Commodore 64 and has reading phone directories in it? I mean, that was awesome. And this is a safe place to nerd out. But, Richard, thank you so much for your time today. I love hearing your perspective on so many things. And we really talked about a whole lot.
I loved how you lead your organization. And I was thinking, I’ve been running my companies for 18 years now. And I don’t think I could work for anyone again. But I love how you lead. And, definitely, Richard, you’re on a very short list of people that I know I would love to work for.
For our listeners, what I really want you to – Hopefully, you picked up on, was that that style of leadership and the different horizons, and how Richard and Webgains look at that so they’re able to navigate through turbulent times.
We talked a lot about diversification and something that he started doing at Webgains to make sure that any volatile things that happen wouldn’t impact the company overall. And I was thinking at the time how important that is for networks, for agencies and for affiliates to really make sure their income is distributed across different classes.
And also, advertisers. One thing that the affiliate channel brings to advertisers is that distribution. You’re not just relying on one channel or one type of traffic source. You have it distributed. If something interrupts – And let’s talk. We’ve had a lot of somethings interrupt. We’ve had a housing crisis in the last six years. We’ve had a recession. We’ve had a pandemic. We’ve had a hot economic market. We have a land war going on right now. There is a ton of things. We’ve had logistical problems from the pandemic that we haven’t experienced. There is a ton of turbulence that we never thought would happen that is happening now. And it makes the affiliate channel that much more important, because it distributes risk and allows you to adapt very quickly and move budget into much different things that are working. We definitely talked about that. I want to bring that to you.
But also, the academy. And that is the address is academy.webgains.com. Definitely, I’m going to check that out. That was a great part of the conversation. But I really enjoyed the part about smart commissionings, influencers and, really, how our industry is a disruptable industry.
And here’s what he said. I wrote it down, “If you don’t get better, you will be out.” And what we’re seeing in our industry right now is it’s a disruptable industry.” We’re seeing VC money, equity firms come into it, aggregation on all sides, networks, agencies, advertisers. All of that affiliates, all of that is changing things. And that requires each of us to get better, or we will be left behind. That’s my question I’ll leave to you. How are you getting better so that you aren’t left behind in the coming years as the channel keeps evolving?
Well, I want to thank you for listening. You’ve made it this far. Hopefully you’ve found this enjoyable. If you have, please share it on all your socials; Facebook, Twitter, anywhere. Share this podcast. If you know someone who would benefit from this particular discussion, then send it directly over to them. And please, it helps us get the word out more if you leave us a five-star recommendation, whether that’s Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, or the podcast player of your choice. Really helps us get this podcast out to more people. We would appreciate that recommendation.
And like I said in the intro, if you need help, you want to know what’s the best strategy going forward. What affiliates should I be working with? How do you grow exponentially through the affiliate channel? What percentage of revenue should you be getting from a healthy affiliate channel? Or what technology is available? Any of those things, I would love to help with you. Again, no cost, no obligation. You can get help two ways. Email me at email@example.com, or go to calendly.com/jamiebirch, find some time, and we will have that chat. I definitely want to make sure you are aware of that.
Well, thank you for listening. Like I said, I hope you enjoyed this conversation with Richard Dennys. Richard, thank you so much. It was a pleasure to get to know you. And appreciate you taking that time. And until next time, thank you for listening to the Profitable Performance Marketing podcast.