Season 02 / Episode 027
Lexus Nexus to Rewards in Affiliate Marketing with Tricia Meyer
With Tricia Meyer - Executive Director, PMA
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In today’s episode we dive into her evolution from lawyer to affiliate industry pro, well respected and successful affiliate.
We talk about FTC Disclosures in affiliate marketing, affiliate nexus legislation and regulations, how actions taken by advertisers and fraudsters impact your affiliates and much much more.
About Our Guest
Tricia Meyer is the owner of Sunshine Rewards, Helping Moms Connect and other niche sites. She speaks and writes about topics such as monetizing blogs, managing affiliate relationships, and current events in the industry. A graduate of Indiana University School of Law, she combines her legal background and marketing experience to educate and open conversations about legal and ethical issues.
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Well, hello, listeners. My name is Jamie Birch. I’m your host of the Profitable Performance Marketing podcast and the CEO and Founder of JEBCommerce, the award-winning affiliate management agency. Today, we have a special guest. All our guests are special. I say that every time, but this one is real special. Tricia Meyer from Helping Moms Connect and Sunshine Rewards is a longtime friend in the space. So, we’re going to talk about that.
But before we do that and intro the episode, right now as you’re listening to this, you should be planning your partnerships, your promotions, your merchandising, your content all for Q3 and Q4. Depending on when this goes out, you may be in Q3. But you should be planning for that right now. And we have a audit and roadmap service for you that we can help you determine exactly the strategy you need to hit those two immensely important time frames this year, especially with all the turbulence that is going on. It’s even more important that you take advantage and have a really good strategy to lead your partner program, your content commerce, your affiliate marketing and your partnership marketing into those quarters. If you need help with any of that, if you need to know what affiliates you should be working with, how to work with them, then let us know. You can get help from emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get to you right away. If you need help figuring out the right strategy for any of these things, definitely reach out to us at email@example.com.
In this episode, man, we talk about a lot. Tricia has been an affiliate for many, many, many years. She’s also the executive director of the Performance Marketing Association. We talk about loyalty, customer loyalty. How she builds relationships with each of her members. We talk about a bunch of things coming down from their PMA, specifically their glossary. And we dive into FTC disclosures, and nexus issues and all sorts of other things that I think you’re really going to enjoy. It’s a great conversation. And listening and hearing about her transformation and her evolution from an attorney to an affiliate and going from – This is the hardware of LexisNexis, to dial-up, to the Internet and then to monetizing the content that she was creating is really an exceptional story. She’s an exceptional human being. I’m really glad and proud to share this conversation with Tricia Meyer with you now. I’m just going to get out of the way so you can listen to it.
[00:03:26] Jamie Birch: All right. Tricia Meyer, thank you so much for joining me today on our podcast. We’ve known each other for a very long time. Excited to have you on and chat with you today. How are you?
[00:03:37] Tricia Meyer: Thank you so much. I’m happy to be here. I hardly ever actually get to talk to people. So, it’s kind of nice.
[00:03:43] JB: Yeah. Well, that’s saying something being in the affiliate marketing world. But you work on the other side. But one thing I did want to talk about, when we talked on our prep call, there’s a bunch of us now we’re getting into this age of we’re having a different transition. Our kids are leaving. We’re of the age where they’re leaving the nest. And I think your daughter recently graduated college, right?
[00:04:08] TM: High school. I’ve got two in college now. Yeah. Yeah, I feel like we all kind of bonded in those early days because we were kind of in the same place in our lives. We were all […] happy to be affiliate marketers. Doing our own thing. Being able to raise our kids and have families while we work and everything. And so now, we’re on this […] other end of it. We’re all at the same time. All of our kids are leaving home. And we’re having to step back and look at where we are. Like a lot of us took these jobs because it was a great way to be able to be with our families. And now, like, my family’s gone.
[00:04:39] JB: Yeah. It scares the crap out of me. I’ve told my wife, I think I told you this, too, I’m planning for […] a six-month vacation. We’re going to go travel the world. Because I think I’m going toi be a mess at home and all the kids are gone. And I’ve got four years until they’re all gone. We have two adult kids, and they’re already out of the house. And that was a struggle when they left. And kind of what was our family [was] like with only four of us here. And what’s it going to be like when there’s only two of us?
[00:05:10] TM: It is different. Every person in your family, you don’t realize the different dynamic each person brings until that person’s not there. We had the first one leave, who was always kind of like our center of attention. Always the one talking, and exciting. And then she left and it all got a little quieter.
And then the younger one all of a sudden got chattier and started coming to my office more often and asking me more questions and talking. And then she left. And now my husband and I just look at each other, we’re like, “So, what did you do today?” He was like, “I worked in the basement in my office.” I’m like, “I worked on the first floor in my office. So –”
[00:05:41] JB: That probably adds a whole new dynamic, too, because there’s not a whole lot, “What did you do today?” “Well, I saw you today.”
[00:05:49] TM: Right. Yeah. We got up this morning and you went to the basement to your office. I went to my office. We came out for lunch. We ate together for half an hour. You went back to the basement to your office. I went back to my office. That’s my day. Yeah, it is different.
[00:06:02] JB: Now, I imagine in my head there’s just a ton of free time. There will be just a ton of free time. Is that the case? You being on the other side of the veil? I’m going to go through.
[00:06:11] TM: No. There is no free time. I don’t know why. My husband got me […] one of those learn Spanish program things for Christmas because I was like, “Yes. Now is the time. I am learning another language. I’m going to have all this time.” I’ve done like four lessons, and I don’t even remember what they were. I learned […] how to say the bathroom in Spanish or something. And that’s as far as I got.
No. I put more time into my work now. You know how it is. Your work expands to fill the time, especially in this industry, because there’s always something we can be doing. And so, everything expands.
[00:06:44] JB: Yeah. That’s one of the things, new affiliate marketers that we bring on and train that they struggle with, is the task list may start with 10 items at 8 a.m. And you may do 20 things, and you have 40 at the end of the day. And that it is ever-expanding. And that’s okay. You end the day with things to do in our space, we always do.
[00:07:07] TM: Right. And I have a little tip for that, and that my mastermind group, that was Todd Farmer, and Eric Nagel and I, that we started a long time ago […] when we met at Affiliate Summit. And we would meet every Friday afternoon. And at first, we would talk about […] what we did that week. What our plans were for the week. And so, we started doing these, instead of to-do lists, to done lists. And I still do them every once in a while when I get kind of frustrated if I feel like I’m not getting through my to-do list at the end of every day. I’m like, “What did I even do today?” Start tracking what you actually did. And make a little list of, “I accomplished this. I did this. I did this.” And then at the end of the day at the end of the week you can look back through. And don’t be frustrated with yourself that you didn’t get through the to-do list. Because when you look at the to-done list, you realize that you really did get a lot accomplished.
And I think, in this industry in particular, when there is so much to do, it’s like a treat. You start one thing and then you realize there’s something else, “Oh, I’ve got a blog post. Oh, but I have to make an image to go with that. Oh, but if I’m making that image, then I need to go out and pull this.” And it’s like all of a sudden you have 10 things that you did and not a single one of them was the thing you intended to get finished. Start a to-done list. And anytime that you feel frustrated that you didn’t get through everything you needed to get through in a given day or a given week, and you will all of a sudden feel very successful.
[00:08:19] JB: Yeah. I use two things. I have a coach [who] gave me this weekly planner that I use and I list the big accomplishments. And there’s purposefully only spots for three big projects.
[00:08:31] TM: Ah! So you pick the biggest ones or –
[00:08:34] JB: The biggest ones. Yeah. Yeah. So, I have a job description for me. I look at our yearly plan, our quarterly plan and my job description, and I basically ask myself, “What are the three things I need to accomplish or move forward this week to get us to these goals?” Then I use a task manager to keep track of […] the little things within those little things. But that has helped me tremendously, too. Because, yeah, you’re right, you get to the end of the day and you have a bigger to-do list than you started and you just throw your hands up in the air in frustration.
Now, with the empty nest, has that allowed you more time to focus on the business? Has it changed your priorities? How has that impacted the work that you’re doing? And then I want to dive into what that is.
[00:09:16] TM: Yeah. It has definitely made me refocus. I stepped back after the second kid went off to college. I kind of stepped back in August, and I looked at what I was doing with Sunshine Rewards, what I was doing with the PMA. Looked at all of my ancillary websites and said, “Okay, which ones just need to go away?” Now is the time that it’s time to just stop working on some of these things, because they’re never going to go anywhere else. And then what do I want to put back into Sunshine? What do I want to put back into the PMA?
I really did have to spend a little bit of time refocusing and thinking, “Is it time to sell Sunshine Rewards? Is this the time to stop and just completely pivot? Go back to working in a legal office or something like that?” Or is it the time to reinvest my time in Sunshine and see what that next level for it’s going to be? And ultimately, after going back and forth a little bit, I decided to go with the reinvest-and-stick-with-it route.
[00:10:04] JB: Yeah, that’s great. Was it hard to stop watering those other gardens or choosing which ones to kind of pull back from?
[00:10:11] TM: Definitely. Sometimes they feel like your kids. Like you get this great idea and you spend all this time launching the blog and finding the merchants that go on it and getting it all going. And then it doesn’t really make any money. But a year later you’re like, “Ooh! But it was such a good idea. I should definitely stick with it.” And then all of a sudden, 12 years later, you’re looking at that blog and going, “Huh. Well, it makes about 17 cents in AdSense a year and it costs $5 for the domains. So, maybe it’s not the best use of my time.”
[00:10:37] JB: And how do you calculate ROI again?
[00:10:39] TM: Right. Right. Yeah, that’s when the business side has to step in. And that’s hard. It’s hard to separate […] the business aspect from just the genuine joy of affiliate marketing and what you like doing.
[00:10:50] JB: Yeah. And that minimalism I think is maybe what they call it, or just reducing what you’re doing. It’s a big lesson I’ve had to learn. I love to do everything. And I want to do everything. And I want to do it really well. And I don’t have time. That’s one of the things I’ve been focusing on, is limiting what business-wise I’m focused on, but also other pursuits, too. It’s really made all the things I did end up focusing on much more powerful.
So Sunshine Rewards is how I met you. But tell our listeners – Because we haven’t had an attorney on before. This is our first. I’m fairly certain of it. And your path to affiliate is different than most. Tell us about how you found the channel and what you’re doing now. What you’ve done since 2006.
[00:11:36] TM: When I started out as a lawyer, before I even went into the legal practice, I kind of already knew that I wanted to be a mom. My husband and I have been together six years when we got married. I graduated from law school, and we got married in the same month. And it was kind of like, “Okay, we’re already to this point of [being] ready to have kids and ready to move on.” But I also just got this law degree that I really need to do something with.
I got a job working for LexisNexis. And it was a really pivotal time in technology where it used to be [that] you have these […] little monitors that you would have to pay for this little keyboard monitor for your law office, or for law school or whatever to be able to look up case law and look up stuff through LexisNexis.
And right as I was starting, they were transitioning to what we now call the Internet. And it was this huge change from having this service where you dialed into LexisNexis into their servers to be able to go to a website and just go to lexisnexis.com and do a search. And it was this big deal, “Oh! A Boolean search. What’s a Boolean search? Oh, it’s where you just put in words. And it magically pulls up the cases with those words in it.” It was crazy. And it was such a huge step as attorneys for how we were able to start using the Internet to do research as opposed to the old school books in these little terminals.
I had spent a few years in their case law division where I was working online every day. I had a dedicated home office. I was starting to have my babies. And I was spending all this time on the Internet and doing things there.
And just kind of for fun, I started looking at blogs. I had […] a very primitive website when I was in college back before websites even had graphics. And it was just like my Ball State username that was appended. And it was like, “Oh, I like the Steelers. I like to watch Guiding Light. These are the things that are important about Tricia.” It was so stupid. And I can remember my husband saying, “I don’t know why anybody would ever want to go to a webpage that was just stuff that you like. Why is this ever going to be a thing?” And I was like, “I don’t know. But people are looking at it. So –”
[00:13:38] JB: Look at my hit counter.
[00:13:39] TM: Right. Yeah. And it had like everything that could spin, and make noise and –
[00:13:43] JB: Did it have music?
[00:13:44] TM: Oh, yes. Of course, it did. Oh, yeah. And that was one of the best things, was being able to pick what song was going to automatically play when people visited the website. I started helping moms connect, because I saw these other just websites. And I was a very young mom. My kids were like one and three, two and four at the time.
And so, I started putting stuff out there. And then I started seeing that these other sites very similar to mine in terms of content and traffic. They were getting these advertisers and things like Target. I was like, “How in the world are they getting Target to advertise on their website?” I was trying to go to these little local pinball alleys and ask them if they would advertise on my site. And they’re like, “Well, how many people in Indianapolis come to your website?” And like zero, because it’s the world wide web. People come from all – And they’re like, “But why do we want to advertise on your website? Your website isn’t targeting people in Indi.” That’s when I saw this – Like, I saw Target and Walmart, these other things. And I started thinking, “Somehow, these little websites are getting these big advertisers.”
My husband’s in IT, and he helped me find a redirect program where we could trace the links. And so, I started clicking on every advertisement that I saw on these websites. They weren’t even blogs yet. There wasn’t even WordPress at that point. They were just front-page websites. And so, I started clicking on them, and all of a sudden there was BeeFree. And I’m like, “What is BeeFree? What is this?” And boom! There I am. I’m in an affiliate network now. And then it led from there.
It was like then I searched for BeeFree to see what I could find about it, and I found ABestWeb. And then once you find ABestWeb, you hear them talking about Affiliate Summit. And then I go to Affiliate Summit. It was like this really fast. It all happened so quickly. And then I was starting to make money off of it, but it was because all my friends were coming to my website.
And then I started to feel bad, which says a whole lot about me as an affiliate marketer, that I felt guilty that my friends were clicking on these advertisements and I was making money off of them. I said, “Well, I wonder if there’s a way that I could make my site such that my friends could click on it and then I’ll give them half of what I get. So then I don’t have to feel guilty that they’re clicking on my links.”
And so, I started looking for some kind of software or program that would allow commission splitting, basically, and that became Sunshine Rewards. It’s just like it just came naturally from that because I wanted to share the money I was making with my friends so that I didn’t feel guilty about getting them to click on my affiliate links.
[00:16:13] JB: That is amazing. I knew none of that. I knew none of that. Guilt can make us do –
[00:16:18] TM: Because it makes me sound really pathetic.
[00:16:22] JB: No, I don’t think so at all. I mean, guilt can make us do a lot of things. But to lead you to a model of what we take for granted in affiliate right now is pretty amazing. And [did] you always [have] that entrepreneurial mindset? Or what is it that like, “I can make money with this. Someone must be. Let’s go figure it out.”
[00:16:45] TM: Yeah. It’s actually funny that Todd Farmer and I were talking the other day about our first entrepreneurial experiences. And mine was a Michael Jackson newspaper when I was in fourth grade, that my friend and I wrote a magazine. A magazine, I should put in air quotes, about Michael Jackson and had like pictures of him that we’d lifted from other magazines and stuff. Took it to her dad’s copy machine at work, made a bunch of copies of it and sold it to all the kids in the school. Yeah. It was totally ridiculous. And we made […] 10 cents off of each one. But, yeah, it was kind of the startup.
And my mom was always like that. She always had side hustles on top of her job. She was always – I remember she had a screen-printing business with one of her friends. And she made lotions and soaps at one point. And then she started her own grooming business. And she was always side hustling to try to make money. And affiliate marketing was my side hustle from being a lawyer.
Who says […] affiliate marketing is your side hustle from your lawyer job? And then you start making more money in your affiliate marketing side hustle than being a lawyer. And your mom says, “But you went to law school. How can you quit your job as a lawyer?” And you say, “Because I actually think I’ll make more money as an affiliate marketer.”
[00:17:56] JB: That’s super funny, because I know your mom, too.
[00:17:59] TM: Right.
[00:17:59] JB: And I can see you saying that. When you first said Steelers fan and Guiding Light, I was like, “I don’t know if we could be friends,” because I’m a Seahawks fan, and I grew up watching General Hospital. But when you throw Michael Jackson and selling a newsletter at school, we are in.
I didn’t sell Michael Jackson newsletter. But in the 80s, if you saw me walking, you saw me moonwalking, because that’s all I wanted to do. But I sold my mom, and hopefully the statute of limitations have expired on this one. She worked for a company that stocked candy bars, cigarettes, and things in convenience stores. Well, when all those candy bars went – They were past their due date, they would sit in our garage forever. I sold candy bars out of my station wagon in high school forever. All my gas money came from slinging Alpine White chocolate bars and Butterfinger.
[00:19:00] TM: Well, we all got to where we were somehow.
[00:19:02] JB: Yeah. We had to have a side hustle, right? When did Sunshine Rewards and Helping Moms connect? When did you know like, “Ooh! I may have to make a decision on my career here.”
[00:19:13] TM: It was fast. I went to Affiliate Summit – I want to say, I went in the summer. I went to Orlando. And then I went in the winter to [Affiliate Summit] West in Vegas. And by the time I got back from [Affiliate Summit] West, that was it. Like, I knew I had to give up my LexisNexis job, because the website was just taking so much of my time and making so much more money than the income potential that I had at Lexus for what I was doing. It was maybe […] six months at that point, that going to Affiliate Summit, it just exploded.
It was six months of kind of building the content and figuring out how to do it. And then going to Affiliate Summit. And within six months of that Affiliate Summit, it was time to quit. And then I had a little bit of time where my husband and I were kind of like, “Okay, we have these little babies. And he’s getting a master’s degree. And I’m giving up this really good job.” And Lexis ended up letting me work as a consultant for them for a little bit just so that I had kind of that fallback. And I was also teaching business law at the Community College. I had […] a little bit of income fall back, but I knew that I was giving myself like, “Okay, you’ve got six months to see if this is really going to work before you completely give everything else up and focus only on this.” And that was all it took.
[00:20:23] JB: Was it a hard decision to – I mean, did you have your mom in the back your head going, “You went to law school.”
[00:20:30] TM: In the back of my head. You know Cindy. She was in my face. She was constantly in my face. Yes. How can you be doing this? You’re supposed to be a judge someday. You can’t give up your legal career. You went to school for three years. You passed the bar exam. How can you give all this up? ‘
And then, ironically, […] two years later, she gave up her grooming and vet tech to be an affiliate marketer. It’s enticing once you get here. Once you get a little taste of affiliate marketing, you want to stay.
[00:20:57] JB: That’s awesome. Tell me, what is Helping Moms Connect? And how do you integrate monetization in there? And then also, Sunshine Rewards? What is that? And how do you integrate monetization there?
[00:21:09] TM: Helping moms connect is more just straightforward blogging. Used to be more mom stuff, because I was doing more mom things. But now it’s more lifestyle. The difficult thing for me right now with Helping Moms is that, for so many years, I could write so much about my kids and about parenting, and that was fine.
And then as the kids started getting older, it became like, “Oh, should I mention this on the blog? That doesn’t really seem appropriate. That would be a privacy issue.”
[00:21:33] JB: And probably […] social media came into it a little more. And it was –
[00:21:37] TM: Right. And I know that my kids see what I write. And so, I’m not going to write a blog post about how my kid was a total crap head and forgot Mother’s Day or something. I’m not going to do that.
[00:21:47] JB: You’re too kind. I would have.
[00:21:51] TM: But it’s like – And it’s actually with girls and teenagers.
[00:21:55] JB: Yeah.
[00:21:57] TM: And so, it was hard. And now, I want to be authentic. And so I made it clear to my audience at the time, “Okay, my kids are not little anymore. I’m not going to write about diapers.” And I get messages from merchants that are like, “Oh, you’re a mom blogger. Here are all these products that we’d like you to promote.” I’m like, “I can’t promote these products. My kids are 19 and 21. I have nothing to say about those toys or about those things, because that’s just not where I am in my life.”
I still write about being a mom, and I integrate things kind of about empty nesting a little bit, and my own relationship with my mom and things like that. But I just don’t put quite as much there as I used to, because I really try to draw that line between anything that I feel like I shouldn’t be sharing about my kids or things that they wouldn’t want out there now at their age. And I won’t put anything that’s inauthentic in terms of where I am and my parenting journey. It’s a little trickier. I do monetize a little bit with affiliate links still. But most of what I put on there is like Disney stuff now, because we’re all the big Disney fans in our house.
[00:22:55] JB: Yeah, I noticed that. You’re a huge Disney fan.
[00:22:59] TM: Yeah. It’s a good place to be able to put those kinds of things. And then Sunshine Rewards is made up of mainly Disney fans as well. And that was also just kind of happenstance, that when I launched the site, I was really active in a big Disney board. I posted on there one day and said, “Hey, I have this website that I’m starting where we’re going to give away Disney gift cards. If anybody wants to come and check it out.” And then we have thousands of people register that we’re all Disney fans.
And so, over the years there were times where I would think, “Oh, you can’t really focus on this Disney stuff. You need to have lots of different gift cards. You need to try to broaden your audience.” And then it would come back to, “But everybody keeps cashing out for Disney gift cards. So why am I trying so hard to force people to get gas cards and grocery cards when they all either just want Amazon or Disney?”
And even now, I’ll post on this, the Sunshine Facebook page. I’ll say, “Oh, we’re going to run a contest. Gas prices are high. Do you want me to give away a gas card? Or do you want me to give away a Disney gift card?” And 95% of them say, “We want the Disney gift card.” I’m like, “Okay.”
I lean into it now, because I really struggled for years in the middle range of like, “Oh, if I want this site to be bigger, if I want to do more with it, then I need to get outside just this Disney market.” And then I kind of came back around, too. But I love Disney. And they love Disney. And so, why not just stick with it?
I do post a lot more of our daily deals. I will post Disney stuff more often. Not necessarily shop Disney, but Disney products I find. Yesterday, it was Crocs, and something for Amazon. And so, I do post the Disney stuff a little bit more just because I know that’s what they like. But not everybody only loves Disney. There is that opportunity to market a lot of other stuff through Sunshine too.
[00:24:40] JB: That’s awesome. And the guilt must be gone now that you’re sharing the commissions?
[00:24:46] TM: The guilt is totally gone now. Yeah, because now I feel like we’re in it together. Because it’s like, “Hey, if you click through this, then I’m going to do my best to go find good deals for you. I’m going to be a good business owner. I’m going to help you if you have problems. You can come to me or to Ashley. And you’re not just a number for us. Like, we really are –”
One member was messaging me two weeks ago. I was in the bathtub with my laptop reading a Kindle book, and she was messaging me through Facebook saying that her login wasn’t working. And I was like, “Okay.” I logged into Sunshine [and] figured out what’s wrong with our account and responded to her. It’s […] 10:30 at night, in the bathtub reading a Kindle book and I’m helping this member who’s messaging me through Facebook. And that’s how I want it to be. I wanted to be cooperative, where they’re shopping through me, and they know that I’m making money off of it. But in return, they’re getting the best for me that they can.
[00:25:33] JB: Yeah. And I assume you had pressure from advertisers, too, to do different things and feature them on both sites. How have you handled that as an affiliate?
[00:25:43] TM: I’ve gotten to a point in my career where I will do a lot more for the people that I have relationships with. And I just kind of make it clear to them, like, “I don’t know if I can sell this for you. But you’ve been there for me. So, I’ll be there for you.” So, I’ll put this in the daily deals. I’ll run it on my homepage. I’ll try to blog post about it, because we have a relationship and I’m willing to do that. But if it’s somebody who I don’t have a relationship [with], just an OPM, or somebody that comes who I don’t know that says, “Here’s a product. We’d love to send you one. And you can write about it on Helping Moms.” I’ll just say no. It’s not the kind of product that I would normally use anyway. We don’t have any kind of personal relationship that makes me want to do something like that for you. I think that is the benefit of having been in it so long and being at that point in my career where it’s a little easier to say no to people that I don’t have relationships with.
The people I do have relationships with, I can almost never say no. Any of the OPMs listening who know me, yeah, you know my secret. You come to me and ask me to add a merchant. I’m going to do it for you just because. Even if I don’t know if I can do anything at all, if you want me to add it, there’s a good reason for that. So, I will do it.
[00:26:51] JB: For those listening, especially advertisers, that just demonstrated the importance of relationship [building] in this space and how it’s not a lever you just pull. Because if you don’t have that relationship, you get a no. That’s it. You just get a no. And if you do, you could get a try. And sometimes the try really works. Have you had anything surprising happen from […] you knew someone, you throw it out there that worked really well that wasn’t Disney?
[00:27:17] TM: Yeah, sometimes, […] there are just really bizarre products that I think who would ever – One of my OPM friends that asked me to add […] a DNA sequencing product or something. I was like, “I wouldn’t use this myself. I don’t know how to really market this. I’ve done ancestry. But that’s it. This is like finding out about your own health. I don’t know if it’s even legit. But I’ll try it because maybe somebody wants to.” And then all of a sudden, I had a long-time member that bought […] this whole big kit and wanted to try it. And so, I actually messaged them and asked them about it because [I’ve known] some of these members for 15 years or more. And they said, “Oh, I kind of had my eye on doing something like that. And I’ve been wanting to do it. And then once I saw it pop up on Sunshine, I figured it must be a legit company, since you were working with them. So, I figured I’d give it a chance. And I’m looking forward to seeing what it says.” It was surprising to me, but it worked out for them.
[00:28:09] JB: There’s so much right there. The one thing that when I’m talking to affiliates that I don’t get a lot of, but it does happen, but that you demonstrated so well. And I wrote this in all caps in my notes of knows her audience. Actually, knows her audience. Not just their profile and they behave this type of way on average. But you really know your audience. You can call your member and say, “Why did you buy that thing to learn more?” That has to be extremely powerful competitively.
[00:28:43] TM: It is. I mean, I saw you saw my post on LinkedIn about how we lost an advertiser that we have made a lot of money with. And we have one member in particular that buys a lot through that particular merchant. And when that program closed, the next morning I emailed her. And I was like, “Hey, Megan, I’m so sorry. They just pulled out. All of a sudden last night, they said that they’re not moving the program. They’re not moving in-house. I don’t know what’s going on with them. Given the economy, it might be supply issues. I’m not sure.” And she responded, and she was like, “Yeah, I’ve been having problems with supply issues with them. A lot of things [are] getting canceled. So, it’s possible that’s what’s going on. Thanks for letting me know.”
But she was […] the first person I thought of when I saw that message come through from the affiliate manager that the program was closing because I thought, “Oh, this is the place that Megan shops all the time. She’s going to be so disappointed that we don’t have them on here anymore.”
[00:29:30] JB: It’s such a good demonstration of why affiliate marketing is so powerful. Your members are brand loyal to you. You’ve spent so many years building that up and being a resource to them that they’re loyal to you. And then just hearing from her what your advertisers can learn from your conversations with your audience, your members, is incredible. She already kind of had an idea that this could come because of what she was experiencing. That’s tremendous.
[00:30:00] TM: Yeah. And now, conversely, I will help her find another place to buy the stuff that she buys and add them to Sunshine so that she can continue to buy the stuff that she needs and continue to get her cash back for me, and I’ll continue to make money. So, she and I work together to find a new place where she can buy those things that has a good affiliate program.
[00:30:18] JB: That’s even a better demonstration of the power and why they need to be there, because Megan is loyal to you. You’re going to help her find a solution. If it’s not within the affiliate channel, it’s not available. That’s huge.
I wanted to talk about your post a little bit, but also the one you had, they kind of tied together, about staying alive. And you were one of the original. But you’ve been here for so long, you’re definitely an OG in this space. Talk to me a little bit. And I’ll link to this article, if that’s okay with you. And it’s something I’ve been talking about lately because we’re hitting our 18th birthday as an agency in October. And so, kind of reflecting [on] how the hell are we still here? How did we get [here] and still going along? You wrote a nice article. Talk to me about the article and what your frame of mind [was] when you were writing it?
[00:31:08] TM: Yeah. I think I was – it was in thinking about Affiliate Summit that was coming up. And which of our friends were not going to be there because they’re just not even in the industry anymore, or they’ve taken a different route, or financially, they’re not making enough now in affiliate marketing to even justify going to the conferences. And how things have changed so much from the beginning for so many people?
And I did think, “How am I still here with this?” Loyalty sites are a dime a dozen. And we pay out less than any of the big ones do, because we don’t have VC. We don’t get the top commission rates because of volume. How are we even still in business?
And so, the big thing for me and what we kind of talked about earlier was the networking and the relationships, that you really have to network like your life depends on it, because your business does. And for me, there are merchants where the only reason I get the top commission rate is because of my relationship with them. It’s not because of the volume that I do or because Sunshine is so well-known as a cashback site. It’s because I have a good relationship with them and they know that I’m going to do my best. I’m going to put them in the deals. I’m going to talk good about them. I’m going to explain to my members why they should shop there. And they trust me that I really am doing my best and that I’m going to be good for their brand and then I’m going to put them in front of loyal members.
And I know that that’s the only reason I’m here. If it weren’t for OPMs, and affiliate managers, in-house managers that are willing to continue to take a chance on me, that are willing to continue to throw me a contest prize every now and again to run something special, or to do a giveaway on our anniversary or things like that. I rely on those relationships, and I hope that those people know that they can rely on me as well. And whether it’s a one-to-one relationship, you give me something and I send some sales back, or it’s the other things […] I’m happy to connect you with somebody else that I’ve met. Or I’m always happy to send somebody your way that I know is a new affiliate and they’re looking for certain types of products, and I know that you manage those kinds of programs. Or from the education side, from the PMA and my attorney work, that I’m willing to reach out to people and say, “Hey, this is what’s going on with FTC. You need to understand that this is happening, because I know that this is going to impact your merchants in particular or your social media influencers in particular.”
I hope that just through these relationships, that the people on the other side are getting as much out of them as I am. And I think they are. I assume they are. Just because they continue to give me some of the things that keep me in it. Yeah, that’s kind of the big thing for me.
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[00:35:02] JB: I like how you wrote, “I don’t mean just connecting with people on LinkedIn or following them on Twitter. I mean, making meaningful relationships and building trust.” And that’s a lot different than networking on LinkedIn.
[00:35:12] TM: Absolutely, yeah. And even seeing people back in person at Affiliate Summit again recently, there are a lot of people that I saw that I haven’t sent a dollars’ worth of business to them in the last couple of years, but it didn’t matter. It was nice to see them. We still chatted and caught up. And maybe there is a time next year or the year after that where, all of a sudden, they’re managing a program that is a perfect fit for my demographic. Or I’m consulting for somebody and it just so happens that their products would be perfect for the person that I’m doing the consulting work for. I’m going to go back to that relationship again.
[00:35:44] TM: Yeah. And you talk about trends and then be good at what you know and keep learning. And I love both of those, because so much is changing. There’s a period of time where we had new technology and new ways to track. But I don’t know if I’d say it was stale. But there wasn’t [anything] exciting, huge. But it feels like, in the last two years, there’s been a lot of change. What do you do to stay up to date on trends? How are you following them and identifying them?
[00:36:11] TM: Most of that for me is through the Performance Marketing Association, because I am such an integral part of that in terms of their councils, and their webinars, and white papers and things like that. So, even councils where I have nothing to do with what that council does. Listening in on their conversations, watching their webinars. They’re just super smart people.
There’ll be a webinar where the combined knowledge of the few panelists is 50 years of affiliate marketing knowledge in three panelists. Where do you go to get that in our industry that’s such a young industry? And yet, I’ll be listening to them and I think, “Oh, this isn’t something that impacts me. But I need to listen just because there might be something.” And all of a sudden, I’m taking notes, […] either as a consumer, because I had no idea that this or that was out there for me as a consumer to use. Or just to know not necessarily what my competitors are doing. Because as a cashback site, something like Klarna is not a competitor to me. But at the same time, understanding what it is that they’re doing. Does it impact me? Does it not impact me? How could it in the future? They’re the obvious swat opportunity analysis of thinking through those things and thinking, “Is this a threat? Is this an opportunity for me?”
And then hearing things come back around, like the whole toolbar issue. What the heck? When I came into affiliate marketing, toolbars were a persona non grata. We all hate toolbars. We’re all in agreement. We hate toolbars. And none of the merchants are going to work with the toolbars. And then all of a sudden now, it was like, “Oh, well, there’s one toolbar. Well, I’m a little skeptical. But maybe it’s an okay company. Well, now there’s two browser extensions. Well, how’s that different than a toolbar?” I don’t know. It just is. But this time it’s not so bad.” We’ve come back around to this. And listening to this –
[00:37:51] JB: It’s weird, right? Totally weird.
[00:37:53] TM: Yeah. And from a consumer standpoint, I totally get it. And that’s where you have to be a person, not just a business. And you have to think, “Okay. Well, this is how it’s benefiting the consumer.” So, I can sort of understand why this is taking off. But then this is how it impacts other people in our industry. And we have to be aware of that, too. Because what happens if all of a sudden you don’t have people posting recipes anymore? You don’t have people posting how-tos on how to do things because they can’t monetize it because all of their cookies are getting overwritten. Then what happens to what we know is the Internet and all those how-tos and everything out there?
You have to look at the whole ecosystem and think, “How is this impacting everything?” But then you also have to look at the consumers and say, “This is actually really great and interesting for them. How do we balance those two things?”
[00:38:38] JB: Yeah, it’s always really hard. And you talk about how you’re impacted by things. And in that post, you mentioned, if we can chat about it, because I think it’d be real instructive for merchants to hear your kind of this is probably one in a long line of tough days that you’ve had over the many years you’ve been an affiliate. But you had a merchant pull out without notice and then a lot of fraudulent charges come through. Talk to me about that. And how do those things impact the affiliate?
[00:39:09] TM: Oh, have two things […] that happen within 24 hours. Those are things that you think happen – Maybe once a year you lose a big advertiser and you have to try to figure out what to do with it. Target decided to cut out cashback sites at the beginning of COVID because they were making so much money from people doing shop online, pickup at the curb, that they didn’t need the affiliates. And they especially didn’t need loyalty. Okay. So, we take a little bit of a hit there. But we can compensate because people are shopping through all these other online sites that they weren’t shopping through before.
But then things kind of level out and you think, “Okay. So, that happens again to me a couple nights ago.” And it was […] 10, 11 o’clock at night that I got this message. And at first it was just you’re being removed from the program. And I was like, “Okay.” Survival mode kicks in. I’m going to go into Skimlinks. And I’m going to pull a link from Skimlink and I’m going to run it through there until I can figure out what’s going on with the merchant.
And then 20 minutes later, it’s an email from the merchant from the affiliate manager that was like, “We’re so sorry. This is out of our control. The entire program is being shut down it’s not moving.” And then you kind of go, “Oh, okay. We’re now just completely deactivating them from the website. What are we giong to do about that? Okay, well, that’ll be a tomorrow problem. We’ll figure that out tomorrow.”
And then you get up and see 41 fraudulent transactions in your CJ account for one member and you think, “No.” Because so many things can flow from that. Like, it can be that that member has now gone out and they’re telling other people in a secret forum somewhere, “Ooh! Here’s a great way that you can screw over Sunshine Rewards and make a lot of money.” And so, then all of a sudden you have this influx of other fraudulent people. It could be that the merchant looks at my account and says, “Ooh! 41 out of 48 of your transactions this month were fraudulent. You’re obviously a fraudulent affiliate.” Boom! Out of the program.
[00:40:50] JB: Reputation shot.
[00:40:51] TM: Yeah. CJ can flag my account as, “Oh, look at all these reversals that she had over the last week. There’s obviously something going on with her as a publisher.” When you see that, it’s not just […] every now and again a fraudulent transaction comes through or one reversal here or there. But when you see 41 of them that come rolling in and you think, “Oh!” And then I look at the account and I see there was already one the day before. So, they obviously had made just one test purchase to see if it would credit to their Sunshine account. And then once it did, then 40 more come in the next day. And that’s when you realize this is definitely not right. And we’re small enough that we always catch those kinds of things. But this is a really big merchant that I have no relationship with the affiliate manager. And I know that if I email them about it, I’m not going to hear anything back. I’m either just going to get kicked out of the program or the stuff will be reversed and I’ll never hear another word about it. And so, that’s frustrating.
I always flag things like that for an affiliate manager no matter how small or big the program is. If I see something that just doesn’t – As we would say in law school, pass the sniff test. If there’s just something about it that me in my experience knows it just probably isn’t right, I always message the affiliate manager. And like 80% of the time, I don’t get a response. And it’s frustrating.
[00:42:04] JB: That’s tough.
[00:42:06] TM: Yeah, because it’s like I’m trying to do what I can to keep your program healthy. You don’t want all these reversals in your account. You don’t want that showing up in your statistics. You may not even catch this person.
[00:42:15] JB: It affects the advertiser, too.
[00:42:17] TM: Exactly. And so, don’t you want your affiliates to give you that information back so that you can take care of it before it’s an even bigger problem for you? Because if all I do is cut off their sunshine rewards account, they’re just going to go to another small to midsize loyalty site and pull the exact same thing.
[00:42:34] JB: And they’ve probably done it 10 different times so they were doing it to you. The most creative fraud that I experienced was when I was at Coldwater Creek. So, someone stole credit cards. They bought leather goods through their own affiliate account. Those leather goods were shipped to a, I think, it was [a] Florida State student whose job was, for 20 bucks, he just slapped an international shipping tag on it and sent it out. And they would get the leather goods that they could sell overseas. And they would get the commission. It was all on a credit card that they had stolen.
[00:43:11] TM: Oh my gosh. And the amount of things that people will do to make money through affiliate links is unreal. I think people would be completely shocked at what people are doing to try to make money through these links.
[00:43:24] JB: Yeah. Or just how much work they do to do it poorly and illegally. And they could put that effort into building something of value.
[00:43:34] TM: Oh, yeah, yeah. We had a member at one point that we suspected was doing some fraudulent stuff. And then we also suspected that the information they provided for their account was fraudulent. And so, we made them send us a copy of their driver’s license. And it still just didn’t seem quite right that it was […] this middle-aged woman that was buying all this weird stuff.
My mom was working for me at the time. She found them on Whitepages and called the house. And it turned out that it was a teenager who had taken his mom’s ID and was somehow using […] a pre-purchased credit card and then his mom’s driver’s license to commit all of this stuff. And I’ll never forget my mom calling me saying, “Do you know what your son has been doing online?” And totally ratting him out to his mother.
[00:44:18] JB: Man, you don’t want an attorney finding out that you’re committing fraud, and the mother of an attorney cutting your mom down.
[00:44:25] TM: Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah. I think that kid got in a lot of trouble after that. He was not expecting what he got out of Sunshine Rewards.
[00:44:33] JB: Oh, I bet. Wow! That’s fantastic. Oh, that’s a first. I love that. And I can see Cindy doing that, too. Talk to me about the PMA. You’ve been the executive director, I think, for six years now of the performance marketing association. A group that I was on one of the councils when it formed. I’ve been on since then was a board member of and probably served – I know, I could have served more actively. But talk to me about what’s the PMA. What’s your role? Tell us more about the Performance Marketing Association.
[00:45:09] TM: Yeah. It’d be hard not to sound like I’m doing the elevator pitch that I did at the table for ASA last week, because it was just like it kept coming off my tongue so quickly because there were so many people coming up. But basically, we’re here for the good of the industry. We’re a non-profit made up of volunteers like you. Our board members are all volunteers. Our council members are volunteers. I started as a volunteer.
And in fact, it is still. I work 15 hours a week as the executive director. A lot of my time for that is still volunteer. And we’re just doing what we can to bring the whole industry together to educate people in the industry about what they need to know and people outside the industry about what affiliate marketing is and what it isn’t.
We try to stay on top of everything that touches affiliate marketing, whether it’s technological things like cookie tracking and changes, ITP, things like that. Whether it’s legislation when we have the internet tax issues a few years ago. Disclosures with the FTC. Staying on this edge of, “where are influencer marketing and affiliate marketing […] starting to overlap? What are the different types of publishers?”
And we’ve got a really good group right now in terms of spread across the industry. We have a lot of the big networks. We have a lot of the agencies. And we’re looking now to try to pull in more of the publishers and retailers as well. And it’s just kind of a challenge to convince people like, “So, why do you want to pay to be a member of this when you’re giving away everything for free? We’re putting out these glossaries, and these white papers and doing these webinars on LinkedIn.” And everyone’s like, “Why should I pay to be a member?”
And it just kind of goes back to […] we’re all in this together. The networking that you’re getting as part of the PMA, the Slack channel, the brunches that we have, the events that we do, it adds some legitimacy to your business in terms of being able to say I’m a part of the Performance Marketing Association and a little bit of credibility when you’re working on these councils, when you’re participating in these webinars. For some companies, they use it to teach their newer employees.
We have this great glossary that we put out every couple of years that we update with all the newest terminology in the industry. And a lot of companies told me at Affiliate Summit last week, we take that and we give it to every new employee that walks in the door. And we have them go through that and ask us to explain anything to them that they don’t understand. Or we point out the parts to them that will specifically apply to their jobs. It’s just that extra piece of unbiased information. And that’s the thing. We are unbiased.
And is partially why I serve as the Executive Director or why I was chosen, because at Sunshine, I work with every network. I work with every OPM. I work with all the different merchants. I don’t have any bias, because I make money from everybody in every way that I can.
And so, we really do have everyone working together right now and listening in on some of these webinars and these council calls. It is just amazing to me how much people are willing to share. And a lot of it is competitive. It’s OPMs that are getting together and saying, “Well, this is the tool that I use for recruitment.” “Well, this is what I use for tracking.” Well, have you ever heard of this tool?” And they’re genuinely sharing this information just to help everybody else. Just to help make everybody in the industry better. And that’s what I love about it.
And it’s probably because I’m a Pollyanna. My mom says that I go through life wearing rose-colored glasses. And maybe I do. But it fits with the PMA, because we’re kind of a Pollyanna organization. We want what’s best for everyone. We want everyone to make money. We want everybody to kind of play by the rules. And that way we all do well and we don’t get in trouble.
The more that we all play by the rules together, the less likely we are to have the government coming in and making rules for us. And that’s kind of what’s happening with the FTC, that they’re making rules about affiliate marketing. And we’ve been trying to proactively go to them over the last couple of years and say, “This is what we think would work. This is what would be helpful to us. This is how we can help people disclose. This is how we can help the affiliate managers and the merchants to be able to monitor that disclosure and take remedies when there isn’t disclosure.” We want to be good eggs. We want our industry to be clean. So, let us tell you how we think we can self-regulate. That way, you don’t have to come in with your hammer on top of us.
[00:49:13] JB: Yeah, because that’s the tool that they have, a large hammer. Talk to us a little – You mentioned FTC and then affiliate nexus issues. I don’t know if you mentioned [it], but that’s in there, too. And you have a unique perspective as Executive Director of the PMA. But you’re also one of the people I go to when a new ruling comes out. And I have no idea what it says.
Your legal background, you have some of the most comprehensive and easy to understand analyses of these types of things. If our listeners don’t know what those things are, can you tell us about the FTC guidelines and then the nexus issue?
[00:49:50] TM: Yeah. I’ll start with nexus just because it’s probably the least important right now. But it was essentially what boosted the PMA into everybody’s visibility maybe eight, ten years ago, and that was the different state governments were trying to find ways to collect taxes from merchants even if the merchants weren’t in those states.
And so, there are federal laws about how a merchant has to have a certain context within a state in order to collect those taxes. And what they were trying to say was that an affiliate would create that nexus. And so, when we were talking about affiliate nexus, it was basically the governments of each state trying to use affiliates in a way that we really shouldn’t be used so that they can tax more.
And then we really did a lot in terms of lobbying state legislatures going to courthouses all across the United States. Getting groups together in all the states where it was coming up, Facebook groups. Every time a new legislation would pop up, we’d start a Facebook group for that particular state. And then said they might go to the state house. And we were hiring attorneys. And it was pretty much the main focus of the PMA for a really long time. So, it’s what a lot of people still think of us as. And that’s kind of died down now because they found other ways to get their money where they don’t have to care as much about affiliates. Since they’re getting their money, they really don’t care about us, and they never really did.
Now, the FTC cares about us because they – As a part of consumer protection. And it makes sense when you look at things from a consumer standpoint, especially with influencers and with social media. And you watch a TikTok video of somebody using a product, and that product seems really awesome. But you don’t know that that person was actually sent that product for free and is being told that they’ll make a bunch of money for making that video. You just think, “Oh, that product looks really cool.” And that’s kind of where we are in terms of media consumption now, is just watching other people use and talk about products. And the FTC has stepped in and said, “Whoa! Wait a minute. Wait a minute. People need to understand who’s getting paid for this or for that.”
And the average consumer isn’t smart enough to figure out for themselves that the person on the other end of the TikTok might be getting paid for it. So, they’re kind of coming in now. And they’ve come and gone in terms of what they do to us. But they are coming back now just in the last couple of weeks and saying, “We really want to be clear about this. That if you are the merchant who’s paying money or sending free products, if you are the agency who is helping find people to send those products to or pay those commissions to, if you’re the person writing the blog post, making the tweet, making the video. If any of you is part of this process, and that final person doesn’t make it clear that they were being paid or compensated, we’re hitting you all with the hammer.”
And this newest proposal that they came out with just two weeks ago now is saying that they can go after everybody in that chain who doesn’t do what they’re supposed to do. So then, okay, what is everyone supposed to do? And they’ve made it clear that those endorsers – They call them endorsers, who we would call the publishers the affiliates. You just have to – You almost have to hit the consumer over the head with the fact that this is an advertisement. You have to use either specific language. You can’t use the word affiliate, because the average consumer might not understand that the word affiliate means somebody that’s getting paid for something. They might just mean it’s some other type of relationship.
And so, we have to be really clear for the sake of the consumer, me as a publisher. And then it gets kind of weird, because I’m a publisher with Sunshine Rewards, which is what they consider to be the kind of thing that everybody knows is an advertisement. If you’re going to a website with a bunch of banner ads, and coupons, and cash back, then you know that company is making money off of it.
But if you go to Helping Moms Connect, which looks like somebody who is just a mom in her pajamas giving helpful advice, you don’t necessarily know she’s making money off of that. So, you can be the same publisher in the same account and have different disclosure rules for what it is that you’re doing.
[00:53:39] JB: And right now, with the new proposal, the FTC is having a listening period. That may be over by the time this gets published. But they’re listening to hear the feedback. Because you used to be able to do #ad or #sponsorship or something on something. But that’s not going to be the case anymore. And we have several examples of affiliates and affiliate managers getting hammered by the FTC since this disclosure came out, I don’t know how long ago. But it’s been a while we’ve been dealing with this.
But I have a friend, he has been on this podcast, and we talked about it. And they got nailed early on, […] one of the first ones the FTC used as an example. And so, this is super important for advertisers to understand. And you correct me if I’m wrong, but they can’t anymore say, “Hey, I told them to do this. And they should disclose this.” They’re responsible.
[00:54:33] TM: Right. Yeah. Now, they are very specifically putting [that] into the federal register. They’re saying that the affiliate managers/merchants, or whoever is responsible here, which could mean both depending on what your relationship is as an OPM to the merchant. They’re saying that you have to educate the affiliate on what it means and what they’re supposed to do. You have to monitor those affiliates. And then you have to take action when there’s violations.
And then like clear as mud, they don’t actually say what any of those things mean. They say educate the affiliate. But does “educate the affiliate” mean put it in your terms of service? Well, most [of] the time, we think that consumers aren’t really responsible for reading terms of service for things, because they’re long and legal-y. And most people don’t read them. Maybe that’s not enough. Maybe it’s the email they get when they get accepted into the program that lays out exactly what it is and explains them maybe it’s every newsletter you send out once a month has a blurb in it that says, “Don’t forget. This is what’s required of you. If you need more information, go here and find it.”
And then monitoring affiliates, which is where I’m the most concerned for what this could do to our industry. And obviously, it’s something that we’ve kind of known was coming because the legacy learning systems settlement kind of told us that they do want the affiliates to be monitored a certain way. But how many affiliates do you have to monitor? How closely and how often? They’re not saying that.
And so, they’re leaving a lot of gray space there for what that means. And my fear is a lot of advertisers will just say, “Well, let’s just cut out 80% of the affiliates then so we don’t have to monitor them.” And I don’t think that that’s what the FTC wants to happen. So we have to say – They have to say, like, “Okay, so what do you want to happen? If they have 100 affiliates in the program, does that mean maybe their top 10 affiliates that they check them more frequently? And the other 90 out of 100, they just spot check them once a quarter on a rotating basis or something like that?” It’s got to be something reasonable. It can’t be the kind of onerous burden that makes it such that merchants just want to cut out affiliates just so that they don’t have to monitor them.
The other alternative I can see is a tool. Maybe there will be somebody like BrandVerity or somebody that will come up with some kind of tool that makes it easier for the merchants to be able to monitor automatically.
[00:56:47] JB: Yeah. Definitely, when this all started, I talked to someone at the FTC when you still could I don’t know if you can get a hold of anybody now. And I remember, what they told us then was we want to see that you have a process to make sure this doesn’t happen. If something falls through the process, we want to see that you fix that hole.”
So, you have a process for monitoring. It doesn’t have to be every day. It doesn’t have to be every affiliate. And then you have a process to fix that if it gets loose. And […] I have another business where we provide care for adults with developmental disabilities. I deal with a ton of regulation and government oversight.
What I’ve learned from them is, as long as you have a process or policy in place, you’re monitoring towards that and you’re making changes when things fall through the cracks, they’re usually very, very amenable. Now, is the FTC going to be like that? I don’t know. Legacy probably doesn’t feel that they were.
[00:57:48] TM: Yeah.
[00:57:49] JB: And it’s tough because they will not tell you exactly what to do. And so, we have to wait for precedent, right? We have to wait for a case to then show what it needs. And I think everyone goes, “I don’t want to be that person. So, what can we do?” Which in a way provides our own self-monitoring, because none of us want to be that next case, right?
[00:58:11] TM: Right. And you wouldn’t have expected legacy to be one of the first ones. I mean, when you’re talking, people always say, “Oh, you expected it would have been a big brand. It would have been a Nordstrom, or a Macy’s or somebody like that. But it wasn’t.” It wasn’t that big of a brand. And they didn’t even have that many affiliates. So, it wasn’t who we all would have expected would have been kind of the test case for this.
And things have changed since then. But I do think the bottom line of what came out of that, everybody wanted to think that it wasn’t really what the FTC was going to require. But it is really what the FTC is going to require. And in terms of violations Yeah, in terms of the violations, you’re going to have to have some things in place. Like, if it’s a first warning, if it’s a second warning. Are [you] taking them out of the program? Are you just setting them to zero percent commission? What are you doing? And just be able to prove that.
I think you’re right. As long as you have the process in place and the process is reasonable, which I think that’s the place where the PMA can work together, where the agencies can come together with some merchants and say, “Okay, let’s talk straight talk here. If you have a thousand affiliates, what’s a reasonable plan to follow? If you only have 50 affiliates, what’s a reasonable plan to follow? And then let’s kind of go from there and then put that together as a best practices document.”
And then it’s not going to be the rule. It’s not going to be the law. Because we can’t say that for sure. And the FTC will never stamp it and tell us that it is okay. But we can put that together and say, “We, as an industry, have talked about it. And this is what seems fair and reasonable to us. And we’re all just going to try to do this.” And then if the FTC comes in and catches somebody, then we’ll say, “Okay. Well, we tried our best, and we’ll all be on their behalf and say we really did do this as an industry.” So, that’s where we can kind of be helpful.
And with these most recent guidelines, we did submit commentary to them. We got feedback from lots of members of the PMA, a lot of people in the industry. We were cited a couple of different times in the footnotes to the new proposals. And also, during the actual webinar, which they didn’t include in that document. But during the webinar, they addressed one of our issues. And [it] was that too many affiliates and influencers are relying on the built-in disclosure tools for the social media platforms. And those aren’t sufficient.
So, the retailers need to know when it comes to monitoring, and the affiliates need to know that if you’re relying on the branded content tool on Facebook, you’re relying on something built into – I don’t even know if there is anything built in Snapchat. But into Instagram. You can’t rely on those things because the FTC has said that those things are not sufficient to rely on them.
[01:00:29] JB: Yeah. Really good point for advertisers. If you didn’t hear that, the FTC is not okay or doesn’t feel that the platform’s disclosures are sufficient. If you’re relying on that, it’s not going to be enough.
Trcia, this has been fantastic. We covered a whole lot with every conversation we have. Every conversation we have, I enjoy. This one is no different. And [a] great explanation of the PMA for sure. And I’ll record our vote of confidence and pitch for people to join in our outro. But thank you so much.
If people want to work with you on Sunshine Rewards or continue this conversation with you, what’s the best way for them to follow and engage with you?
[01:01:09] TM: They can always engage with me on Twitter @sunshinetricia, because I’m pretty much on there all the time. And then also, my LinkedIn page. I think I’m one of the first Tricia Meyers that pops up. And then also, just tricia.me is where I put all the general information. It’s not a heavily monetized site. There’s just […] a couple banners of things I actually use on the sidebar. But it’s really where I try to put the best information, the newest things on the FTC, anything that’s up and coming in the industry that I think that is important for people to know without any type of hard sell or anything like that. So, hit that page.
I even have […] a series that you can sign up for the newsletter that has 30 affiliate marketing tips in 30 days. And it just goes through some of the things that I’ve learned over the years. Most of the things that we’ve talked about, things I’ve learned at Affiliate Summit and through a lot of the networking. And I think that it’s a good starting place for a lot of people who don’t even know where to start.
[01:02:00] JB: Awesome. Well, I will include links to all of those in the show notes. And thank you so much, Tricia. I hopefully will see you at maybe DealMaker, or CJU or one of the other events that are actually live now and in-person.
[01:02:14] TM: Absolutely. It’s nice finally seeing people again. I was a little worried about it, but I think I did okay last time. So, I’m ready to try again.
[01:02:21] JB: Awesome. My first will be DealMaker in Austin. And so, I’m a little like, “Oh, there’s going to be a lot of people.” There’s just going to be a lot of people around.
[01:02:31] TM: Mm-hmm. It’s very different being with everyone again. But it’s one of those things where they say […] it’s like riding a bike. Like, you get there, and all of a sudden you start seeing all the faces again and you just falsls right back into it.
[01:02:39] JB: Get back into the throw.
[01:02:41] TM: Yep.
[01:02:42] JB: That’s awesome. Well, Tricia, I look forward to seeing you in-person. Thank you so much for taking the time today. And for our listeners, check the show notes for how to continue the conversation with Tricia. Thank you again.
[01:02:53] TM: You’re welcome.
[01:02:58] JB: Tricia, thank you so much for this conversation. As no surprise, it was amazing as all others are. Really enjoyed our time together today. So, thank you for taking that time.
I want you guys to think about this, this is an affiliate who has spent over a decade building her brand and building the relationship with her audience. When you’re looking at and how the market is shifting and that, advertisers, you want affiliates that have relationships with their members. This is what that looks like.
And so, we talked about some of the ways […] advertisers […] impact that. This is who they are like. These affiliates have individual relationships with their audience and their members. And so, when you’re looking at top-of-funnel – super important. Bottom-of-funnel, even super important.
And that is a huge thing. She knows her audience. She used names like Megan. There are people she knows that she works with, these audience members, her members of her site that she helps curate, cultivate and helps them find the products that they need. This is the holy grail of what we’re all looking for from affiliates.
Definitely, if you didn’t pick that up, listen to that again. This is where the power structure is shifting a bit, the market, the industry is shifting a little bit. And this is exactly the type of affiliates that people are looking for.
Then want to talk about the PMA. There are some real things. If you don’t know – If the phrase FTC disclosure is prompting a lot of knowledge in your program and in you, you definitely need to get on board with this. Go to The PMA.org. This is what the PMA does. They bring all our voices to a government agency to solve this problem and help solve it in the right way. So right now, you can go to the FTC. You can see that there’s a listening period for their proposed changes. And the one point she brought out, if you are relying on the platform’s disclosures, the FTC has already said that’s not sufficient. So, definitely.
Now, if you have no idea what I’m talking about, you can go to the FTC. But also, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’ll walk you through the whole thing. We’ll make sure you’re protected. But this is why you should join the PMA. Advertisers and affiliates, this is why you should be a member of this group, because the FTC is listening to them. And the FTC isn’t the only regulatory agency that we have to be cognizant of in the affiliate space.
Now, JEB is a member of the PMA. We have been involved in helping with this. And we fully support them in taking our voice and moving forward. And we have our own systems and processes for dealing with FTC, and the nexus issue and disclosure. And if you’d like to hear what those are, you can email us at email@example.com we’d be more than happy to walk you through that process.
If you want to keep in touch with [her on] LinkedIn like she said, look at our show notes. But she is @sunshinetricia on Twitter. You can go to LinkedIn and search for Tricia Meyer. We’ll have a link. And you can always find her and her musings at tricia.me.
Tricia, again, thank you so much for listening. And if you need any help with anything, if you’d like to be a guest or you know someone who would like to be a guest or a topic that we should talk about, then please, just let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I hope this episode was just full of great information for you and you found it a little bit entertaining with my friend and myself. And we are really thankful that you are listening.