Season 01 / Episode 012
John Toskey – A Global Perspective on Affiliate Marketing
With John Toskey - Senior Director of Global Marketing, eBay
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This podcast is quickly turning into one of my favorite things to do each week, and today’s episode is no different. Today I get to interview John Toskey, 25 year digital marketing vet and current Senior Director of Global Marketing for eBay!
John and I have worked together in the past and have known each other for almost my entire career, and he is one of few people who have been in this industry longer than I have. John’s experience is vast and his career path impressive and he has a ton of great information to share.
Starting out in 1996 for Zones.com all the way to his current position as Senior Director, Global Marketing at eBay, John has sen the start of an industry and has seen it change many times over. We discuss how to lead through that change and the vital pieces of Change Management that can’t be missed and dive into how the affiliate industry has changed as well as some concerns he has going forward.
We discuss how executives like himself manage the affiliate channel amongst all other channels and how they make budgetary decisions and what the affiliate channel needs to do to compete for that budget. If you have managed multiple channels or are trying to figure out how to manage your affiliate program within that environment, you won’t want to miss this episode.
Thank you John!
About Our Guest
John has been in the industry for over 25 years, starting out in 1996 for Zones.com and expanded his experience with roles for The Database Group, Blue Nile, drugstore.com and greatergood.com.
He is currently the senior director of global marketing at eBay, where he leads eBay’s global performance marketing organization with teams in the U.S., U.K., Germany, Switzerland and Australia. He is also a member of the eBay Data Sharing Council.
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There is no such thing as bad traffic. John mentions he has always believed there is no such thing as bad traffic, all traffic just has a price. He asks – “If you can price it right, why would you ever turn away traffic from your website?”
Remind people about their successes. John mentions that he has teams in many different parts of the world that he must keep connected. He sends out an e-mail every other Friday with his current thoughts, and calls out any successes. On the off weeks, he has his leadership team take turns sending it – and those are the ones he loves to read. He mentions it is a gentle reminder of how capable people are. He reminds us that it can’t just be one person telling everyone what to do – it’s important to have other voices come through. He also prioritizes 1-on-1 meetings with team members throughout the month.
Radical transparency is crucial to explaining affiliate marketing to stakeholders and executives. John explains that some executives have their own preconceived notions of the channel gained through experiences. He mentions that it’s tough to invalidate these notions, and the best thing to do is explain the measures in place to ensure that fraud happens as little as possible. The other side of it is radical transparency. It can be painful trying to explain to a C-level executive what an affiliate is doing for their brand, so it’s important to be transparent about where in the purchase consideration funnel each partner is adding value. Explain how you know the incremental value, how a partner can support a certain part of the business in a unique way, and cater to the “silly” questions.
Managing change with a vision is even more important this year.
“Anybody who has been in the business for a while knows that change happens often. And there’s always a question of – ‘how do we go from yesterday to tomorrow?’ For example, this can be as simple as Google no longer charging for PLA [product listing ads]. This means we must then evaluate how we bid, how we spend, what it means for product feeds, and how we talk to global stakeholders about the impact… and how do we start working differently with an SEO team? It involves creating a map, from current state to an end state and the most important part of that is vision.”
Efficient spend brings flexibility.
“I ask myself – if I have a dollar to spend, where am I going to put it next?’ Part of that is ensuring that the affiliate program is competitively priced, and not just against actual competitors, but against other channels. There needs to be a difficult decision… we go in with an idea of a flat budget, and ask where we can provide growth next year and what is the efficiency of that growth so that our stakeholders understand. We have plans across every channel, and as time goes on, we shift money around. The key is trying to build some flexibility to deal with change.”
[9:40] – “As I sit looking at where I’m at today, I think part of what makes affiliate marketing so interesting is all the different business you get to work with on both sides of the fence, either as an affiliate or as an advertiser. Everyone involved has their own business, and the people who are successful are those who are agile in the ability to understand how each business works and the risks involved… you must decide where to spend your time.”
[15:15] – “I think it’s a missed opportunity, regardless of your [merchant] size, if you’re not asking affiliate managers questions like: ‘What is important to you? What do you need from me? What makes me valuable? Why is your business different than your competitors and how do I leverage that to sell more of your items?”
[44:35] – “This may sound pessimistic, but the industry felt magical in the beginning. Every year, someone would come out of nowhere with a business and it would be amazing. Whatever value they were bringing was new and exciting, and pushed innovation. I don’t know if the space has that magic still. One reason is because everything is so predicated on data. When you look at how companies are successful with their marketing today, it’s all based on how much data do you have and how you’re using that data. Smaller affiliates may not have this, and if they do, it may not be in a useful format.”