Season 03 / Episode 019

From DC to Park City – An Affiliate Marketing Journey with Vanessa Isaacson

With Vanessa Isaacson - Director of Account Development, AvantLink

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Today’s episode features a conversation with Vanessa Isaacson, Director of Account Development at AvantLink. Vanessa has one of the most interesting origin stories in affiliate marketing, you definitely need to hear it.

Jamie and Vanessa cover trends in the space, the popularity of the channel, new emerging affiliate publishers and more.

The discussion around EPC was very unique as well and definitely shows the importance of utilizing every part of your affiliate channel to grow customer acquisition. Have you thought about increasing your EPC so you are more attractive to big and vital affiliate publishers? Have you thought about adding certain partners to increase your EPC so you are more attractive? Perhaps not, but Jamie and Vanessa discuss that today!

About Our Guest


Vanessa Isaacson


Vanessa has been with AvantLink for 7 years working in a multitude of positions including account management and affiliate team lead. She was recently promoted to the Director of Account Development where she outline strategies and processes to ensure strong performance among AvantLink’s publisher and advertiser partners.



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[00:00:48] Jamie: Hello everyone and welcome to the Profitable Performance Marketing Podcast. My name is Jamie Birch. I am your host as always, also founder of JEBCommerce, the award winning affiliate management agency. Here today with a special guest, Vanessa Isaacson, Director of Account Management at Avantlink. We’ve been waiting for a while to get someone from our friends at Avantlink on the show, and today is the day.

[00:01:14] We have an awesome conversation lined up before I talk about that. Let me just tell you about our new service packages. We have five new levels and they’re very clear, easy to understand. You’re going to know exactly what service you’re getting exactly for what you’re paying, something that’s been missing in the affiliate space.

[00:01:32] If you’re looking for an affiliate management agency, you’re looking for help, whether that be a little bit of help, or you’re looking for someone to do everything and grow your program rapidly, then go check out where you see all our new packages clearly laid out for you.

[00:01:51] Today, Vanessa and I, we talk about her origin story, which is one of the most unique. And I really commend her for how she got into the space and how to find a job. If you are looking to get in the space or looking to make a change. You definitely want to listen to that part of the conversation. We dive into nexus. We dive into tools for affiliates. We dive into all sorts of things. So I’m going to get out of the way so you can hear my conversation with Vanessa Issacson.

[00:02:21] All right. Thank you for joining me Vanessa Isaacson from AvantLink. I’m so excited to talk to you and thank you for being so cooperative in rescheduling this multiple times. In fact, if you see my background today, I was getting ready for all the recordings I had to do today. And they started a remodel, a small remodel in my house and today’s demolition day.

[00:02:48] So I packed everything I could get to record this podcast and went out in the barn. So I am coming live from the tack room at the Birch Ranch today.

[00:02:59] Vanessa: I thought that might have been an AI background, like the

[00:03:02] Jamie: No, it’s real.

[00:03:04] Vanessa: That’s real. That’s awesome.

[00:03:07] Jamie: Welcome to the show.

[00:03:09] Vanessa: Thank you so much for having me.

[00:03:10] Jamie: I’m very excited to have someone from Avant Link. I’ve worked with you guys for a really long time. Are you in the office today? It looks like you’re in the office. You guys back in that swing of things now?

[00:03:21] Vanessa: Actually since COVID AvantLink has started hiring outside. So the office is based in Park City, Utah. It’s actually snowing today. It’s been snowing all morning. So it’s been…

[00:03:32] Jamie: Don’t say that.

[00:03:34] Vanessa: Snow. So we’re all excited. We pray for snow here. And so the AvantLink team, we’re spread out all over the place. We’re in Colorado. A lot of us are still here in the Utah area. We have some folks in Florida, in California. So we really are getting our hands in every single state.

[00:03:55] Jamie: No, that’s great. That’s great. That is a podcast in of itself of dealing with all the different states. We did something very similar and made a couple of mistakes. Some states are very, very difficult to work with, but we’re torn on the snow thing. My family skis but we also have a 10 acre ranch and that means we have to move a lot of snow, so I’m not really looking forward… I’m looking forward to skiing on top of it and through it, but not pushing it. Yeah.

[00:04:23] Vanessa: That definitely sounds like a love hate type of relationship.

[00:04:27] Jamie: Definitely. Now you have a super interesting origin story and that’s usually where you start. So why don’t you give us like, how did you find affiliate marketing? What were you doing beforehand? It’s probably the most interesting origin story that I’ve had of anyone on the podcast.

[00:04:43] They’re all unique. Everyone seems to come to affiliate marketing through a different path. So tell us, how did you find it?

[00:04:51] Vanessa: Yeah. It was really accidental. So I’ve been with Avantlink for nine years now. So we’ve been in Park City for close to that and we, I was previously working and living in Washington, D. C. I had moved there 10 years prior, so when I was 24, I moved to D. C. to work for the senator from New Mexico and at the tail end of my political career, I had lived in DC at that point for 10 years, about 10 years. And I just needed a break. My boyfriend at the time, and I wanted to do something a little bit crazy. And so we sold, everything we own, we bought a little RV, and we traveled around the U. S. and Canada and just made a pit stop in Park City because we had a friend that lived here and he’s like, ” just come stay for the winter. It’s great.”

[00:05:41] And, my boyfriend at the time, who’s now my husband, we’re like, “sure, why not? We don’t own a couch or a kitchen table, but just plop down in Park City.” I’d never even been to Utah before. So ski bummed it or snowboard bummed it, if you will, and the first ski season turns into the summer.

[00:06:01] We stay for the summer, meet amazing people, stay for one more ski season, continue to meet and start just, developing, by accident, these roots in Park City. And now we have a house, we have a six year old and a three year old, and I really can’t…

[00:06:18] Jamie: Do still have the RV?

[00:06:20] Vanessa: Oh, of course. Of course. Actually, it’s role now is during Halloween… so we go camping in it. It still is live. It’s still, she, her name’s Rhonda, by the way.

[00:06:31] Jamie: Love that you have a name for it.

[00:06:33] Vanessa: but for Halloween we haunt her up. And so she’s haunted Rhonda and we let people go through the little RV.

[00:06:41] Jamie: Fantastic.

[00:06:42] Vanessa: We put like smoke machines everywhere. She, she really is versatile.

[00:06:47] Jamie: I love it.

[00:06:49] Vanessa: Our lives.

[00:06:50] Jamie: Oh, that’s fantastic.

[00:06:51] Vanessa: So,

[00:06:51] Jamie: found yourself in Park City and the skiing is good. I hear it’s fairly decent down there.

[00:06:57] Vanessa: Yeah, it’s great. The summers are amazing. And so when we decided that we were gonna make a life here I wanted the furthest away from my DC life as possible. I didn’t want to commute. I didn’t want to work for big government again. I wanted to find something, really small and personal.

[00:07:17] And honestly, what I did was I walked around the neighborhood that I lived in and I wrote down all of the companies that were walking distance from the condo that we lived in, and I just blanketed my resume. I just sent out my resume and AvantLink, thank goodness, was nice enough to give me an interview.

[00:07:38] And so while marketing really wasn’t my background I did have some, I did have a lot of experience in small business advocacy, and I think that’s what aligned or at least what kind of opened the door is my want to help small businesses at the end of the day. That’s what I loved about my work in DC. That’s why I, that’s what kept me going in my political work and so I think that translated nicely into an AvantLink career.

[00:08:07] Jamie: That is the best story. It reminds me, I was coaching a young man after college trying to get his job and I remember driving him into downtown Spokane and saying, “all right, you have your resume and everything. I’ll come pick you up in four hours. Go meet people.” And he went and did that.

[00:08:24] I don’t know what happened from that. Where did that idea come from? Like, that’s such a great idea. You wanted to obviously not have to commute anymore. So you got to find something local. Talk to me about that whole experience.

[00:08:39] Vanessa: I definitely didn’t want to commute. I definitely… I knew about affiliate marketing, but I didn’t really fully grasp what a network was and the depth and breadth of a network. And so, Luckily, when I started researching, the clients of AvantLink and the two sides of what makes a network.

[00:09:00] And I’m just like, this is amazing. I can really work for a tight-knit company like AvantLink. It’s a family owned, private owned business, and so the company itself is very nimble. We can take problems that come across our desk and really work very quickly to affect change, to help our clients, in a much quicker way than I think I could if I worked for a big conglomerate or, if I fell back into, like a big bureaucratic kind of entity.

[00:09:35] So I just, it was just really lucky that something like AvantLink fell into my lap when that’s where my strengths in my professional life lie, right? I want to be a problem solver. I want to connect people. I want to learn about you. I want to learn about your problems and how our company, our software, our expertise can help you be a better marketer, be a stronger business. And it just connected so, so cleanly.

[00:10:08] Jamie: That’s fantastic. And how that worked out that you were in walking distance from AvantLink is fantastic. Now, one of the things I always teach my staff when they’re coming in, I’m always trying to get them ready for their next career move, whether that’s at JEB or it’s somewhere else. And one of the things I’m always talking about and teaching them is how to position and package your experience to be useful, understandable, and beneficial to a wide range of industries.

[00:10:35] You’re managing affiliate programs, but you’re also managing million dollar budgets. So did you feel you had to repackage your experience in the public sector to find something in the private sector?

[00:10:47] And how did you, how did you do that? What would you say to someone who’s, 25, 30, and they’re wanting to do something similar.

[00:10:54] Vanessa: I think that for coming into AvantLink and starting to work, I quickly start to realize that talking to people is probably the best asset you can have in any profession, walk of life. Being able to sit down across the table or in a Zoom call, or, I’m constantly at conferences where I’m meeting new potential clients, or I’m meeting affiliates that have been in AvantLink for, numbers of years, being able to quickly connect with them establishing that trust.

[00:11:30] And I think that trust comes from your underlying want to help them. You want to understand where they’re coming from, what issues they’re facing, and I think that on that very base if you can practice and hone that people connection skill… you know, maybe the brand doesn’t even know it’s an issue yet, or the publisher doesn’t know there’s an issue yet, but just in conversation, being able to draw out potential ways that you can help them, that will serve you in any professional capacity.

[00:12:06] But you’re right from a public perspective, coming from a government position into something like marketing, there were a lot of reporting, and metric, and data field activity that are specific to Affiliate Marketing that definitely, I had to learn again.

[00:12:23] What I loved about AvantLink is we’re a great team. I never feel inhibited to ask to email my CEO right now a question about anything. We’re a very open company and i’m not afraid to ask the questions that I think will take my learning and what I know and what I can give back to my clients. I’m, not afraid to ask that internally. So developing a culture like that whether you manage, you know your account managers or are working towards your career having that open line of communication, that comfortable feeling within a company, I think is the best I think is how I was able to pick it up.

[00:13:09] I

[00:13:10] Jamie: One thing you talked about that I was on a podcast this morning where we discussed, where mistakes people make and misunderstandings about affiliate marketing and the thing I said is, ” build it and they will come and then you don’t have to do anything.”

[00:13:23] And the counter of that, of building relationships. You talked about like how valuable that is. Do you think that can be taught? Or do you think you have to be a general network or relationship builder? Do you think the basics and the fundamentals can be taught?

[00:13:39] Vanessa: I think so. And I think that if you work for a brand that you truly believe in and you really understand what the goal is of any affiliate relationship, I think what’s coming across more and more to me is that brands are coming to us and they are very new to the affiliate space, right? They know that it’s something that they have to have as part of their marketing portfolio.

[00:14:05] They’re coming to us very green. And so my first piece of advice to them is never turn down a conversation. The first conversation is going to be a little bit difficult because you’re not sure what the questions are. You’re not sure, but every affiliate is so different that you never want to dispel or throw any affiliate relationship away just by the name of their URL or the quick description that you read about them.

[00:14:35] Get on the phone with them, talk about that. And again, if you’re not a natural networker at heart, I think that the more you have these conversations, you start to get an idea of what questions need to be asked. What questions shall I start making sure that I’m prepared for that are going to come from a prospective publisher. And on the other side too, publishers that come into AvantLink.

[00:15:01] Contact every merchant, get everybody on the phone. Even if you think there’s not a relationship that can be made there test it out. Let’s see if that relationship can produce any fruit. I think that’s the beauty of being part of a network is it makes those relationships at least connecting with them, you’re starting on step two or three, right?

[00:15:21] Joining a network, you have this wide ranging number of potential partners. And so it just, it takes away that hard first step identifying, right. Being a part of that affiliate network is a really crucial part into starting those conversations.

[00:15:38] Jamie: I know when we’re training new assistant affiliate managers and they’re getting ready to have their first conversation with an affiliate. So they’ve learned how to do the reporting, they’re doing approvals, they’re in the network, and now it’s time for them to, go out and talk to people.

[00:15:53] We usually give them a couple of questions like, “Hey, here’s how you get your conversation started.” You talked about having questions and then being prepared to answer questions. Do you have a couple of go to’s that these are the standard. If I don’t, if I don’t know who I’m talking to and I wander into a conversation, here are the standard.

[00:16:09] And here’s what I always try to be prepared with.

[00:16:12] Vanessa: I love to come out of the gate with what products do you think will light up your audience? Let’s talk about products that… ” your audience the best. Let’s talk about the products that will drive your audience. And then from there, how can we get you to talk more about our brand to put our brand out there more in front of your audience?”

[00:16:39] And I think those two questions, the conversation just starts from there. What I love about those questions is I love to learn about the origins of all affiliates. Whether, I’m talking with my affiliate contact at a coupon site or a deal site. Everybody really has a backstory of how they got to affiliate.

[00:17:01] When it’s a content site, when it’s a YouTuber, when it’s an Instagrammer, I want to know what makes you tick. Why did you come? Why are you part of the affiliate network? Why did you even take this call? What made you even want to take time out of your day to chat with me about my product or my brand.

[00:17:20] And so, I think those two questions open up like the floodgates for a good historical conversation and then how, we can move forward if we think it’s a good partnership.

[00:17:31] Jamie: Yeah, and I think what you’re bringing up is really important too, to those starting out, like you said, they, they’re a bit behind this industry is about relationships and you can’t build relationships through email. You have to talk, you have to take those conversations.

[00:17:45] You’ve been in this industry for 10 years. I’ve been in it for a little over 20, and the same thing holds true is that someone that you’re meeting with today, that it’s not a fit right now, typically will move on to another position and they’ll remember how you treated them when they weren’t a good fit.

[00:18:03] Vanessa: Yes.

[00:18:04] Jamie: And if you treated them well, then they’re going to reach out to you right away. Those things are really important.

[00:18:10] Now going back to your transition to affiliate, did you find any adjustments difficult from the political arena to digital marketing that were tough to adapt to?

[00:18:21] Vanessa: When I first started at AvantLink nexus rules, nexus state were talked about so much and I could not… it was so difficult for me to just wrap my head around and coming from a political background or understanding and how laws are passed or the need for them or from step one, how a lot is passed to solve a problem.

[00:18:48] I just never really got my head around nexus and what that meant for… it was just… that was difficult for me. It was difficult for me to advise on. It was difficult for me to wrap my head around.

[00:19:02] Jamie: And I would bet a lot of people, like I’m thinking right now, like, “Oh, if I knew you were around with your background, I would have been pulling you in of like, how do we do this?” So you probably had people thinking you, you had access or information that could help. And while you’re still struggling to figure it out.

[00:19:20] Vanessa: It was really interesting to me though, finally understanding the why’s and the how’s and the reasons why nexus was part of the conversation and then seeing the industry come together in a grassroots kind of movement to make sure that nexus laws were not impeding on the ultimate goal of brands.

[00:19:44] So, I did find my way through it, but that was probably the one thing that I remember that I found it a little bit difficult to…

[00:19:52] Jamie: I remember on one day, I had a conversation with someone at the FTC, which I never thought in my career I’d ever talked to someone in that department and also heard on a investor phone call the discussion of nexus and the affiliate program. And as the only person on the affiliate team in a public company. I was like, I don’t want to deal with this anymore. Can we just, let’s have this all decided and and moved on. That was a difficult time for many of us.

[00:20:22] What surprised you about the industry, now your industry, when you came in?

[00:20:26] Vanessa: I think what surprised me or what surprises me now is, nine years ago when I came in, an unnamed person had said, and I think it was like at an ASW or something said, “do you know that the affiliate channel is dying? You know that, right? It’s a dying channel.” And I’m like, “well, that’s great. I just, started this. This is amazing and great move for me.”

[00:20:50] But how untrue that statement was and how popular. Like I said, merchants that come to us now know nothing about affiliate. All they know is they have to be a part of it. Publishers, big media conglomerates, that I was always asking, “why aren’t you putting affiliate links in your posts, in your listicles?”

[00:21:13] Now, they’re a major player in affiliate, just come three years ago. So, I’m just really surprised at how, even pre-COVID, how crazy the affiliate channel and how popular it has gotten and again, just looking at the industry and the types of partners that come to AvantLink… I love chatting with every single affiliate especially the technology affiliates. They’re really coming up with innovative ways on how they can maneuver through the affiliate channel, how they can bring consumers, in really innovative and smart ways, to the table.

[00:21:54] On the other hand, I’m talking with merchants that are, maybe they’ve been on Shark Tank or, they have a really personal story, a mother who decided that the baby backpacks that were in the market, we’re just not up to snuff. She started her own company. And now I get to talk to this lady, the creator of this company and try and guide her to how to make more money and get more baby carriers in the hands of mothers.

[00:22:22] It’s just, it’s great. It’s a great channel to be a part of and what it’s developing into really, again, from my perspective, a small business focus from, the affiliate who just started their running blog as a side passion project.

[00:22:39] And now I’m talking to them on a day to day basis and this is how they pay their mortgage. This is how they feed their family, which started out is just a side hustle and now we can really connect them with top brands and now they’re reviewing shoes, and hiking pants, and they’re connected with big brands.

[00:22:57] And it’s just, it’s come full circle for me in trying to not only advocate for small businesses, but now on two sides of the spectrum from the affiliate side to the merchant side, how to help these small businesses grow. They’re all small businesses.

[00:23:12] Jamie: That’s fantastic. Your energy, I can feel it through the Zoom, especially when you talk about small businesses and about helping others. Where does that come from for you? You can definitely feel like that is what motivates you. Where does that come from?

[00:23:27] Vanessa: I grew up in Santa Fe, New Mexico and a lot of my family were small business owners. And so when I had to decide what career I wanted to take going into the political world was just about… I just wanted to help people. I wanted to help native New Mexicans. I wanted to make sure that any problems that New Mexico, New Mexicans faced, I can be part of the conversation and help.

[00:23:53] Then just coming from a small business family… you know when small businesses flourish, really see how that impacts your family and when small businesses don’t. And so I think pushing my way through, making that a really good political background.

[00:24:13] And then again, just seeing that in the affiliate channel, focusing and pulling that out of what I can do, how I can be of service. I think it stems from that. I think it stems from coming from a small business family.

[00:24:28] Jamie: Yeah, that’s fantastic. I know the first affiliate that I helped when he was first getting his site and then 12 years later he sold, and is doing quite well, that just felt so great to be a part of that journey and a small part, but to help them realize that and then their first income stream and then replacing their job and then to an exit was pretty tremendous.

[00:24:53] That’s awesome. Now you talked about… getting back to the affiliate industry, you mentioned how popular it is right now. Why do you think that is? We’ve been trying to get the media publishers into this space probably since your first week, and for a lot of us, since the beginning. What do you think changed?

[00:25:14] Vanessa: I think that people really start to recognize that, in the affiliate channel, you have a direct connection to your ideal consumer. So you’re removing a lot of maybe consumer touch points. As a brand, when I’m working with a shoe review site, I know that the audience that follows that shoe review site or follows this Instagram account, they’re my ideal audience.

[00:25:44] I just don’t see any other channel that really connects you as quickly to your ideal consumer. And so, I think when you have a niche product I think you start to realize that. I think people or brands start to realize that the quickest way, the quickest path, to your passionate consumer is through the marketing partnerships through affiliate.

[00:26:12] I don’t know why it took so long for that to happen. I think, and again, this is just my guess is again, when I first started at AvantLink and the conversation about the channel being a dead one, or it’s about to be a dead one, we were really just looking at coupon and deal sites, right? And I think that’s where that conversation was.

[00:26:35] Marketing online, marketing through, just through promotional sites doesn’t have legs. There’s no way that that channel is going to survive. But you bring in and I think the affiliate channel does a great job at continuing to bring in affiliates of all walks of life. So when you have a good affiliate program, you not only have some content in deal, maybe some loyalty sites, but you really have the opportunity to have a good bench of affiliates. You’re really have a good wide range of marketing partners in a one stop shop, when you’re working through a network.

[00:27:17] Jamie: Yeah, I think some of the technology also is allowed, like an individual can develop an audience, become the trusted person for that audience, and then dictate who can reach them. I wrote an article not too long ago or a podcast episode where it just talked about for so long, the advertiser had all the power, they paid the bills.

[00:27:43] So all the money came from the advertiser and they had the power. They were the brand and the affiliates were smaller, but over 20 years, a lot of these affiliates are bigger brands than the brands that they promote. Now that power dynamic has shifted from “do what I’m asking you, because I’m the brand” to, “I don’t care who you are I have the audience. If you want the audience, you’re going to play the way that I want.”

[00:28:08] So I think the technology, but also over time the brand building of the publishers has helped make that “you want to reach them. This is how you got to do it.”

[00:28:19] Vanessa: Right.

[00:28:20] Jamie: Where do you think the industry is heading now?

[00:28:23] Vanessa: I really think that, because of the increase in popularity brands bring in affiliate, but they also really want to see how affiliate is interacting with their other marketing channels. They want to see a holistic view. They want to see more data. They want to see activity to the order level of where “in this particular order, one, two, three, four, how are all my marketing channels involved in this order?”

[00:28:51] So I think as the channel gets more popular, I think that the data, the questions that are coming to the networks are a little more sophisticated. They want to have more data to act on. And I think that’s the main aspect of it. I also think the industry, which I love this aspect of it also, is brands are really coming to the table with an effort to find marketing partners that are more inclusive and diverse.

[00:29:23] I have that conversation a lot with brands. How can I find marketing partners that are going to present me to an audience that is going to enhance our brand’s inclusivity, our brand’s diversity into the overall marketing sphere. And so I think…

[00:29:43] Jamie: So, are they talking like diversity of different channels or are they talking inclusion and diversity of different people groups?

[00:29:50] Vanessa: People groups.

[00:29:51] Jamie: Oh, okay. Great. How do you answer that for them? How do you help them with that?

[00:29:56] Vanessa: Well, AventLink does have a lot of tools in reporting. So when we go back to the first my first point of, affiliates or brands wanting to know really how the affiliate is interacting with their other marketing channels, there are great reports and data metrics that we can provide that will show you, from the consumer’s first click into the affiliate channel, what other marketing channels were involved.

[00:30:21] I think the industry is adhering to that call and providing more metrics and data for brands that want to see those types of numbers.

[00:30:30] The second aspect of brands really focusing more on inclusivity and diversity, I think that for AvantLink, we’re still trying to figure out how to brand and capture that data. But I think at the bare minimum, we recognize that brands do have that quest to find marketing partners that can reach a diverse audience. And so being able to identify the types of affiliates, which affiliates do have a more inclusive and diverse audience base and making sure that we’re continuing to bring others in.

[00:31:10] We’re continually adding to our affiliate base and our publisher base based on the requests of our merchants. We recognize that as a request and recognize that that’s where the industry is going.

[00:31:22] Jamie: Yeah. I think a lot of the tools you guys have make it easy, like the easier you make it to have a relationship with a partner, I think that exposes or expands on who can utilize this industry.

[00:31:34] So, one of the things you talked about that we talked in the prep call and you mentioned earlier was a well rounded affiliate program.

[00:31:41] One of the things that has been a real hot topic, I’d say the last three, four years is, “I just want content, give me content, give me influencers, give me all that.” And that has its benefits, but talk to me about, does an advertiser, a brand, need a well rounded affiliate program with all these different channels and what are they missing if they only focus on one?

[00:32:04] Vanessa: Yeah. It’s interesting when I chat with brands and they come to the table with that content only mindframe and dispelling two ideas that they have really opens up their mind. Number one, that partnering with these additional, with these coupon deal outside of content, when they open up their affiliate base, it doesn’t cost anything extra.

[00:32:29] When you come into the affiliate space you really are just paying on a performance level. So when working especially when we’re talking about loyalty or cash back sites, so many brands come to the table and think that the cash back that’s offered to the consumer Is on top of the CPA that’s already part of the program.

[00:32:48] So…

[00:32:49] Jamie: Sometimes we forget that some of this stuff is just so normal for us.

[00:32:52] Vanessa: I know really, it really is. And another thing we talk about is these coupon deal loyalty sites they feel like they’re definitely trumping content sites, right? They’re definitely coming in at that last point of the sale and stealing the sale, stealing the commission. And when you look at the data, again, depending on the brand, we’re often surprised at how often trumping from these promotional sites doesn’t happen.

[00:33:24] And we’re also…

[00:33:25] Jamie: Yeah, cause the belief is that’s what they’re doing. They’re coming in at the end, taking credit and adding no value. But you’re finding that’s not always the case.

[00:33:33] Vanessa: It’s not always the case. And even if it is the case, your network can provide mechanisms to adjust your commission. You can adjust your program to facilitate that partnership without, just ensuring, yeah, ensuring that cost. So I think that also brands are surprised how often these promotional sites bring that first touch point to the brand site.

[00:34:06] Which I always say, if you have these concerns, let’s look at the reporting, let’s turn on an AvantLink, it’s called Avant Metrics, where we can turn on enhanced data reporting, where we can follow for any order, the path to purchase. And if more than one affiliate is part of the path to purchase our reporting, will identify that.

[00:34:29] Jamie: Show that, yeah.

[00:34:30] Vanessa: Let’s just turn it on. Let’s take a look and see, and then make any decisions based on the value. You know what? I’m not as surprised when I see these promotional brands come in as the first touch point, especially when we’re talking about new customers.

[00:34:45] So, for consumers who are not brand-loyal, I’m looking for a pair of running shoes. I don’t care. I want to start my journey on a really broad level. And oftentimes my first visit is to my favorite cashback site. I just think that’s where the market is right now. And I think that speaks to a lot of the new customer acquisition the money that’s being spent by these cashback sites to gain new customers.

[00:35:15] So I’m a customer. I don’t have brand loyalty. I want to start my journey to find my running shoe. And so doing a simple keyword search “running shoe” on my favorite cash back site is going to pull up all of the running brands, all of the shoe brands, that this loyalty site works with.

[00:35:36] And for me, I’m going to at least entertain the idea of visiting the site of a brand that’s offering me top cash back. I’m going to look at them. That’s just such a regular part of the research process now, that really opens up your brand to the new customer.

[00:35:55] If you can game and really make sure that your cash back is on the level of your nearest competitor… and it’s all public knowledge, right? You can get on any cash back site and look for your nearest competitor and see the cash back that they’re offering, and just make sure that you’re a little higher, I think you’ll be surprised at how many new customers that brings to the table. Again, not all brands, every brand is different but I think a lot of the times that’s the case.

[00:36:25] Jamie: Yeah, and we always go two routes in that conversation, and I think you do the same thing. One is technology. Incentivize your affiliates for what you want. De-incentivize them for what you don’t want. Most of the platforms and networks allow you to do that. It sounds like you guys do, too. So if they sweep in at the end, you can not commission on that.

[00:36:47] So that resolves that emotional tie to, “I hate these types of affiliates.” And then the data, look at the data. Like you, I can’t tell you how many times I pulled a report on an affiliate. If I named… you’d probably know who I’m talking about and you’re like, “there’s no way there’s going to be a lot of new customers on this”, and they had like 84%. Higher than most of affiliates we had and the content sites, 84 percent of new customers.

[00:37:17] And so it was like, it’s always to me when I hear, “I don’t want a broad reach of different categories, affiliates. I only want content.” What I’m hearing is “as I understand it, only content will provide me customers. I won’t pay for somewhere else too, or I’m already attracting.”

[00:37:37] I also hear, “I still believe my brand is bigger than these other brands and the consumers are loyal to me”, but I don’t know if that’s the case anymore. It’s so easy to find a manufacturer to go make you a pair of jeans, a shirt or something, and sell it and be pretty dang good quality that consumers are shifting their loyalty to who’s going to do more for them, and sometimes that’s the affiliate.

[00:38:05] And so one, if you’re not using technology correctly and you’re not using your data correctly, you have no idea whether you should have a broad program or not. And if you’re not following the behavior of the consumers.

[00:38:19] Because, you’re right. I remember I was literally debating this with a client many, many years ago, I was filling up my car at a gas station, looking at a UPromise ad on the gas pump while the person is saying they don’t get any new customers. I…

[00:38:38] Vanessa: They are working hard to get those new…

[00:38:42] Jamie: I think one of the biggest benefits is if you’re not working with affiliates, you don’t have a thousand people out there trying to reach new customers for you and build new audiences.

[00:38:53] You don’t have that. You’re trying to do it all with one shot in SEM, some display ads, your email campaign, maybe a catalog. You’re doing it all on your own, but you miss these thousands of fingers out there reaching out.

[00:39:08] Vanessa: And the affiliate space is so nimble that, I think when the next popular metric comes, now it’s new customer, I think affiliates will just adjust their tactics. Because they want to be attractive in the affiliate space. So, they’ll maneuver exactly what you said.

[00:39:24] They’ll adjust their strategy in order to bring to the table what they know the brands are wanting. I think another thing I like to mention is that a brand’s EPC, their earnings per click, that is a very, very attractive metric to these content partners that you’re trying to attract. Your brand’s EPC does not increase, or it increases very slowly if your program is only content sites.

[00:39:56] You need a well rounded program in order to increase that earnings per click metric for your brand in the affiliate channel. It increases it faster and then on the tail end makes you more attractive to your ultimate goal of these content partners.

[00:40:15] So they all work together. They all work together to not only bring you more sales, but to make you and your numbers look more attractive to the affiliates that you’re really trying to attract

[00:40:27] Jamie: Vanessa, no one has talked about that on this podcast yet, and I’m so glad you brought that up. Using EPC and increasing your EPC as a means to recruit good quality affiliates. And so for our listeners, if you’re wondering, what are they talking about? Can you define EPC for those who may have not been exposed to that metric yet?

[00:40:52] Vanessa: Yeah, it’s an equation that basically takes how much an affiliate can earn based on the amount of clicks that they bring to the brand. The way that AvantLink calculates it, it’s… I know that some networks take that equation and multiplies it by a hundred. AvantLink’s equation is a very general equation where it’s like 50 cents is a good earnings per click or a dollar is a good earnings per click.

[00:41:20] The affiliates know a strong EPC, they know what type of EPC, the threshold of the EPC that they’re looking for. And a lot of them, when they’re looking in the network they’re adjusting their recruitment efforts by the EPC dollar that is connected to the brand.


[00:41:40] Jamie: It’s hard when you’re looking at two different brands and one has 10 percent commission and the one has $4 bounty, which one am I going to earn more on? I don’t know, but now when you do earnings per click, it takes in conversion rate, and all the other things that happen once you send that user to the brand’s website.

[00:42:00] And now I can look and go, “Oh, for every click, I’m going to earn 50 cents. Well, that is above my threshold of adding an advertiser, I’m going to bring that person in.” For our listeners, it’s a way that affiliates can easily gauge what they can earn from cross verticals and different commission structures. But I really like the idea of if you’re trying to get good quality affiliates and your EPC is low, bringing in partners to raise that EPC, so to make it more attractive to more partners. I have had publishers that come in and say, “you guys, I can’t earn enough. We’ll up the commission. Well, your EPC is too low.”

[00:42:38] But using that to really showcase and bringing in some of the partners that convert at the end of that funnel to raise that EPC so you can be attractive because those publishers that you talked about, the media pubs and influencers, they’re coming in and they’re being sought after by a lot of people.

[00:42:54] You have to stand out. And if your EPC is low, they’re not going to talk to you, are they?

[00:42:59] Vanessa: Yeah it’s a, it’s a bigger hill to climb. Definitely.

[00:43:02] Jamie: Yeah, well, that’s great. We have not talked about that yet on this podcast. So tell me a little bit about AvantLink. If the listener maybe they haven’t been exposed to you guys. I know we’ve worked with you, I think one of our longest running clients launched on your platform I think 10 years ago. And we both still work with them.

[00:43:23] But tell us, how do you guys differentiate yourself? If I’m looking to launch an affiliate program, what’s your unique value prop and what do you bring to the table? And I’d love for you to talk about some of the tools. So now I’ve got a 10 minute question here, but some of the tools I’ve always found the most exciting.

[00:43:41] The advanced link encoder is one of the ones that I love the most. So anyway, how do you guys position yourself? How are you different? What’s your unique value prop and love to go into some of the more advanced tools you have.

[00:43:54] Vanessa: Yeah. So in AvantLink’s inception we really started out as an outdoor niche network. The CEO, the founder of AvantLink, started out at backcountry. com. So he created the company on the basis of creating a network for the outdoor space. And I think as that built and as successful as we were, we start to tangentially bring in other categories that kind of fill that niche or continue to build on that niche.

[00:44:31] Travel is a great one, athleisure wear, fashion. So we’re able to build on the basis of a strong outdoor recreation focus and really break out into other great categories. I think that when the basis of AvantLink’s success is again, we’re a small privately owned company. And so it is really easy for us to speak with our clients, understand what the issues are, what they’re facing, how can we make the interface better and quickly make change around that.

[00:45:11] And I’m not sure that that type of communication, that type of push and pull could be possible with bigger conglomerates. I really pride myself on working for a company that is flexible. And we can pivot when we need to, we can pivot quickly. I think some of the advanced tools… we’re in the business of making sure that you as a brand, or you as a publisher can connect with as many marketing opportunities as possible in the most effective way possible that is making your life as easy as possible.

[00:45:51] That’s what I’m always thinking about when I’m thinking about advancements to the interface. How can we make our clients’ life easier? How can we make sure that they have the ability to partner with tens, hundreds, sometimes thousands of marketing partners and not feel overwhelmed? Knowing that they can come into the network come into the AvantLink software and really drive a lot of sales towards their goals, towards their KPIs.

[00:46:19] Some of the advanced tools that we talk about, I know that you talked about the affiliate link encoder. That’s a great one. That’s an affiliate tool that we created for content partners. And what it allows the content partner to do is: if you have a blog that has been in publication for a long time it allows you to identify keywords and quickly affiliatize them.

[00:46:44] So quickly, our affiliate link encoder can look at all of your content that’s written, and you can tell us what keywords you want us to affiliatize and where you want the links to go. It’s a great and easy way to really make money on a blog post that you might’ve written 10 years ago, but that still is evergreen and still is part of the…

[00:47:08] Jamie: And you don’t have to go through every page on your website to do it.

[00:47:11] Vanessa: Don’t have to go through…

[00:47:12] Jamie: The tool is so easy to get that legacy content. I like the term affiliatized and get links on those words because that stuff will stay out there forever.

[00:47:22] Vanessa: It’s funny, when you type in the word “affiliatize” in Microsoft Word, it’s always red underlined. Like, it doesn’t recognize it as a word, and I’m always surprised that it’s not part of the dictionary.

[00:47:34] Jamie: Yeah, well, let’s start, we’ll start it today of movement. Affiliatize is a verb.

[00:47:39] Vanessa: That is a word. It is spelled correctly, I promise you.

[00:47:43] Jamie: You guys were doing that before content was cool. Like, let’s just say that, like that tool has been around for a really, a real long time. And I know that there are stories of affiliate partners who just sort of kind of got into it and then utilize that. And they were able to replace their income.

[00:47:59] That is a super awesome tool. And for a brand, being able to work with someone who has that ability, if you bring in a partner with a lot of legacy content to a affiliatize, all that legacy content is pretty powerful.

[00:48:14] Vanessa: Every time you say Affiliatize, you owe me a dollar. That’s…

[00:48:20] Jamie: I owe you four. That’s awesome. Are there any other tools you guys are working on or any, anything else that brands affiliates need to be aware of?

[00:48:31] Vanessa: Yeah, I think we’re again, constantly thinking of ways to make sure that our clients’ life is easier. We’re paying attention to the KPIs that are important to them. We have a lot of interface tools that I like to call advanced affiliate strategy, right? Things that maybe a brand that is new to affiliate, maybe wouldn’t pay attention right now, but as they mature in the affiliate space, they can add on to their portfolio.

[00:49:00] A couple of things come to mind where AvantLink, the interface gives you the opportunity to pass us new customer information. And if you can tell us if a particular order is connected to a new customer and the brand identifies and defines what new customer is, if it’s the past 30 days, sometimes it’s the last quarter, you pass us when the order is connected to a new customer as you define it, and then you can choose to award affiliates based on when they bring in, or when they convert a sale on a new customer. You can set that up to make that automatically happen in the interface. And that’s a great tool that a lot of our brands use to make sure that affiliates are incentivized to continue to find ways to bring new customers to the table.

[00:49:48] A lot of our brands want to make sure that some of their products are, if they wanna promote a product more heavily, making sure that the interface can automatically increase a commission on a particular product. That helps brands tremendously when they’re trying to either push a product or really leverage a sale.

[00:50:07] Again, that’s something that can happen automatically in the interface, which makes the lives of our brands, a ton easier. So there are different mechanisms in the interface where we’re definitely listening to brands. We’re definitely understanding the KPIs that they want to see and then making sure that the interface can act on that.

[00:50:29] Jamie: Awesome. Awesome. It sounds like a lot of really useful features. This has been fantastic. If anyone wants to follow you, or AvantLink, or reach out to talk about this more what is the best way for them to do that?

[00:50:43] Vanessa: Yeah. I’m on LinkedIn Vanessa Isaacson. I think that’s a great way. My email is We can chat about your needs and I can make sure that you’re talking to the right people in the company.

[00:50:58] So I’m around. I love to attend all of the affiliate conferences and meet new people and just talk about new strategies, new issues that are coming up in the industry that maybe we haven’t thought about yet that we should start thinking about. Yeah.

[00:51:13] Jamie: Awesome. This has been a really great conversation. And I’m sure everyone will find a lot of value in it. I appreciate you being flexible on the rescheduling and getting this done today.

[00:51:25] Vanessa: Thanks so much, Jamie.

[00:51:27] Jamie: Awesome. Thanks, Vanessa.

[00:51:28] Vanessa: Bye bye.

[00:51:29] Jamie: What a great podcast. Vanessa, first, thank you so much for joining us. AvantLink thank you for making her available. Really enjoyed this conversation. I took some notes and there was just so much here.

[00:51:44] One of the things that Vanessa talked about is how important it is to have conversations and build relationships. You’ve heard me talk about this over and over again. It’s probably the one thing I’ve talked about that has never changed since I first learned about how important that can be. You may learn something that you didn’t know.

[00:52:02] So many of these affiliates are the tip of the spear. They’re out there doing things that we haven’t done yet. And you may think it’s not the right fit, but you got to talk to them. You got to listen. You got to understand what they’re doing to really see if it’s a good fit for you.

[00:52:16] So many times, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve spoken to an affiliate over here a year later, they moved on to another job and work at another publisher and they remembered how I treated them and they reached out to let me know they were at a new place. Those are all conversations I had. So affiliate marketing really is about relationships. Take all those conversations.

[00:52:37] I had fun sharing my story of an affiliate who I helped when they were first starting. Years later, they sold their business, and just being a little part of that was super, super important.

[00:52:48] The conversation that we seem to have over and over again is when there’s so much popularity with the channel right now, but there’s still a lot of I don’t know, haters hate -talking about stuff. Especially when it comes to like discount sites or cashback sites and really what we talked about in this episode and Vanessa expressed, and I did as well, is the importance of understanding the data and knowing when you’re making an emotional decision as opposed to one based on data.

[00:53:17] So get in there and look at the data. You probably will be surprised how many of those partners you think are garbage are actually sending you really good customers. So definitely look at that.

[00:53:27] And I loved the conversation about EPC. Have you thought about making sure your EPC is attractive and bringing on partners who will up your EPC to make it attractive to that really high-quality partner you want to bring in?

[00:53:42] There is so much to running a good affiliate program, including that. I want you to take that away from today’s episode of how important it is to use all the parts of your affiliate channel to increase your likelihood of success. And we talked about the ability of AvantLink to credit on new customers and to follow that chain how many affiliates, and if one’s always coming in at the end, not commissioning for that type of behavior is a great conversation.

[00:54:13] We love working with AvantLink, and I love their tools. One of the benefits of working with a smaller private network is their ability to create things on the fly. The affiliate link encoder is one of those amazing tools to go back through legacy content and change links. You want to check this out because it’s super, super powerful.

[00:54:34] So, definitely if you’re not familiar with AvantLink, you can go to You can go find Vanessa Isaacson on LinkedIn, follow AvantLink on LinkedIn as well. But, really appreciate you making it this far in the podcast episode today.

[00:54:49] Email me at, tell me what you loved about this episode. What would you like to see on the podcast going forward. We are still we still have a couple spots, probably four spots for guests on season three. So who would you like to see? Would you like to be on the podcast? And you may be saying, well, I’ve never been on a podcast.

[00:55:08] Well, 99 percent of our guests have never been on a podcast. So you’d be in really good company and I’d love to have you on the show. Just email us at and we will get to it.

[00:55:20] Now, one of the biggest ways you can help us is to leave us a five star review, whether that’s Apple Podcast or the podcast player of your choice and don’t forget to share this. If you found value in this episode, send it to someone who needs to listen to it, but also share it on LinkedIn, and on Facebook, and even are we calling it X now? I guess it’s X. Twitter? Can we say Twitter? I don’t know, but share it for us. Let other people know, that’ll get the word out and help us continue to get really, really good guests.

[00:55:49] So anyway, thank you so much for making it to this part of the Profitable Performance Marketing podcast episode today.

[00:55:56] If you have any questions or anything need anything at all, just let

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