Episode #010

Erin Killian – Change, Coupon, Loyalty, and Content Sites

With Erin Killian - Vice President, Pepperjam

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Summary

Today I talk with long time colleague and bestie Erin Killian, VP of Agency and Prime at Pepperjam. Now Erin and I have known each other for many years, share a passion for Penn State Football and for affiliate marketing.

We dive into lessons learned through change, how to succeed in an ever changing and evolving environment, and we dive deep into some large issues in affiliate marketing. Things like coupon and loyalty sites, the importance of and role of content affiliates going forward and how this pandemic is impacting the channel.

About Our Guest

Name: Erin Killian

Achievements:

Erin is currently the Vice President of Agency & Prime at Pepperjam, an affiliate-marketing network recently acquired by Partnerize. An industry vet, she has been at the network for over 13 years, with her previous role as senior director for their agency partner program.

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Affiliate is the one place where people may move on from the industry, but everyone stays interconnected. Rely on it. Erin explains that since coming to the agency side of Pepperjam, she has been able to fortify what she loves most about affiliate marketing: the relationships. She explains that everything in this industry is continually evolving: clients, brands, account managers, etc. Switching to the agency side gave her a chance to continue to build different relationships. She mentions that these connections have built and shaped the channel to where it is today.

Through any type of change, step back and do what you do best. Erin mentions that the core group of senior leaders at Pepperjam are the foundation of why it has been so easy to navigate all the changes. She reiterates that there is no certainty in change, and no guarantees. She also touches on the importance of rolling with the punches, and trying to worry less about the things you cannot control. With every change, comes new opportunity. Ask questions and be curious, but keep your focus on what you do best through the uncertainty.

Make sure you have the tools in place to reward content affiliates for what they are providing. She talks about Pepperjam’s ability to give advertisers new opportunities to reward. It opens affiliate to anyone– being able to track with exclusive codes without an affiliate click. Before, you saw a lot of pay-to-play and even those that left affiliate completely. Had it been today, these publishers could be rewarded for being a first affiliate touch-point, last-affiliate touch-point, etc, saving the relationship.

Highlights

Businesses have pivoted to making e-commerce the center of business.   

“There has been a real shift to the idea of e-commerce being the center of business. I know that sounds silly to us that work in the industry but for so many brands, while ecommerce was a focus, it wasn’t always the center of marketing ideals and of budget dollars. It was driven by retail. I think the biggest change for me has been watching how e-commerce, especially affiliate marketing, has really stood out from other channels. Unlike paid search, e-mail, SEO etc., affiliate is truly this performance based model where you can create partnerships with anyone – creating a unique virtual salesforce.”

Consumers have always been deal-driven, but variation is needed – that’s where content comes in.

“Coupon and loyalty have played a prominent role for a long time because they initial started this channel. Consumers have been deal-driven forever and everyone is looking for the greatest way to capitalize on it. When the channel was founded, it was coming from coupon/deal and loyalty and the initial innovation came from those relationships. Marketers became savvier and wanted different ways to interact with consumers. Brands are looking for variation and to utilize affiliate to identify new consumers and bring new consumers to their brand. We have seen a marked shift during COVID to content – growing 80% YoY according to our recent data.”

Quotes

[9:45] – “The move for us [at Pepperjam] from the office to being remote has created unique connections that we haven’t had a chance to build before. I think COVID has created this opportunity where you have to get on a video call, and you actually want the human interaction. It’s made our relationships so much stronger, even by talking to the same people in the same cadence. The fact that our situations have changed and we are capturing people in a more intimate setting has created a different atmosphere especially in our industry, and it’s actually been beneficial.

[21:02] – “To be with a company for 13 years, you are constantly changing. Change is the only constant and it’s the one thing I love best about this company. You have to keep going.”

[35:50] – “You have to support all of your channels as a brand, but affiliate stands out. You are seeing rising costs in other channels in order to participate. Budget dollars only go so far, and affiliate is performance based. Instead of paying per click, you can now work with anybody and pay strictly on a conversion basis.”

[56:45] – “Affiliate, while it is a channel, is also a payment mechanism. For a long time, we tried to keep the influencers separate. It used to be this idea of the PR agencies with connections creating product placements. This is what we do now in affiliate. Many brands have brought their PR teams into the affiliate mix, even educating on how to use the technology. An influencer is an affiliate – promoting a brand online and looking to be compensated for that action.”