Season 02 / Episode 031
Scaling Your Program With a Sub-Affiliate Network with Nick Baker
With Nick Baker - Sr. Strategic Partnerships Manager, Sovrn Holdings
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Today we speak with Nick Baker of Sovrn Holdings. Sovrn is a sub affiliate network. If you are looking to scale your affiliate program, you definitely want to listen to this episode and consider a sub-affiliate network like Sovrn Commerce. Reach out to Nick at email@example.com or his team at firstname.lastname@example.org
About Our Guest
I started my career nearly 3.5 years ago to the day after graduating from the University of Kansas with a major in Strategic Communications and a Minor in Environmental Studies. I had a brief stint in freelance media before venturing into the world of Adtech. I would help my clients from the ground up – major industrial brands like Liberty Safe to grass roots charities like Gold Glove Charity out of Wyandotte, Kansas. I’m proud of the work I did in freelance, but I knew I wanted to be in an environment where I could learn. Enter Sovrn – they had just completed the acquisition of Viglink and were looking to bring people on who could more regularly and effectively communicate with their Demand partners. I started as Merchant Success Manager, and in 3.5 years been promoted 3 times to where I am today. In my time in Colorado I’ve achieved a lot more than just professional wins, including 7 summited 14ers (with 4 more on the calendar this year), tried Improv comedy, and am planning my 5 week hike of the Colorado Trail.
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Hello, and welcome to the Profitable Performance Marketing podcast. I’m Jamie Birch, your host, CEO and Founder of JEB Commerce, the award-winning affiliate management agency.
Today, we have Nick Baker, Senior Strategic Partnerships, Manager at Sovrn Holdings. You may know Sovrn as VigLinks. But as you’ll find out in the call today, that has definitely changed. But before we talk about the episode, let me just let you know, you’re probably planning Q4. You may be even listening to this and planning out your 2023 Strategy. If you need help, there is help available. You can email us at email@example.com, and we will answer any and all questions you have about your affiliate programs strategy and so forth. But if you want to just chat over some of the struggles and the things you’re planning to do, or really trying to figure out even how to create a strategy, you can go to calendly.com/jamiebirch, and you can set up 15 minutes, 30 minutes, even an hour of my time. I’ve earmarked certain times during the week to help any of our listeners out with their affiliate program. So, firstname.lastname@example.org or calendly.com/jamiebirch.
Now, Nick Baker is the Senior Strategic Partnership, Manager at Sovrn holdings. And today we do a deep dive into what it’s like to work with Sovrn, Sovrn Commerce, and what kind of publishers they have access to, and things like that. So, if you are looking to ramp up and scale your affiliate program, this is a great conversation for you to listen to.
I’m just going to get out of the way so you guys can listen to my conversation with Nick Baker.
[00:02:31] Jamie Birch: All right, Nick Baker. Welcome to the Profitable Performance Marketing show. Thank you for joining us today.
[00:02:37] Nick Baker: Yeah. No, thanks for having me, Jamie. Excited to be here.
[00:02:39] JB: Yeah, yeah. I have to thank you for the podcast recommendation. I think you’re the one who introduced me to SmartLess.
[00:02:46] NB: Oh, you gave it a shot?
[00:02:47] JB: I did give it a shot. And I went right to the Eddie Vedder conversation if that revealed my age. But I saw that, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s a really awesome podcast.
[00:02:59] NB: I was just on a flight down to Mexico, and I have like all of these like albums lined up I was going to listen to and then just like, again, went on a deep dive into SmartLess. I think I listened to the Mike Myers ones, because I don’t know if I’ve ever listened to that guy in like a freeform, like long conversation. And yeah, man. It’s a good one. So, I’m happy you liked it.
[00:03:18] JB: Yeah, very much. And like you, I listen to a ton of podcasts. And it drives my kids nuts. Because every time I get them in the car, and they’re driving somewhere, there’s some podcasts that I’m listening to, and they don’t get to listen to whatever music I listen to at the time.
[00:03:32] NB: It’s the age of the podcast, man. There’s plenty to learn. There’s plenty to listen to. And I’m the same way. I don’t know […] my Spotify recap is going to be like podcasts heavy this year, as opposed to music heavy for […] the first time. But, yeah, that’s just how it goes. I’m excited about it.
[00:03:45] JB: Yeah, great. So, thanks for that recommendation. Love it. In prep for this podcast, I was checking out your LinkedIn profile and I found something really interesting. You do some volunteering, but the way you talked about it was a little different than I’ve heard from other people. So, what you wrote was it’s a fantastic way of gaining perspective on poverty and just kind of learning. Tell me a little bit, how’d you get involved? What do you do volunteering? Is that a big part of your life? And talk to me about that perspective shift.
[00:04:13] NB: Absolutely. So, I have my dad to thank for it, big part. So, growing up, we did something called Christmas in October, which was my dad comes from like an engineering background. And so, his organization would do Christmas in October, where effectively you would go to downtown Kansas City to a house that is just kind of a little bit in disrepair. Not contractors by any stretch, but we’re just a team of people that are a little bit handy. I was in high school at the time. So, I knew how to use a paintbrush. And we just kind of like rejuvenate this house.
And growing up where I grew up, in Johnson County specifically, it’s like a bit of a bubble. It’s a great place to grow up. I love it. But there’s a big world out there. And again, to my mom and my dad’s credit, they […] pushed me and my sister out into that world. So, the first time albeit volunteered was not voluntary. My dad was like, “Put on your boots. We’re going to do this thing.”
And I immediately loved it. And it was a great way for me to step out of my world and into somebody else’s, quite literally into their home, and help bring whatever small service I could do into that. And I think the reason I still like to volunteer is because it’s like first impressions, right? The first time we did it, there was this woman, she was in the kitchen the whole time, just like making stuff for us, whether that was like lemonade. She made us cookies. It was just like you could see how happy she was. Like, have this be happening, and kind of just see your positive impacts happen.
And so, being out in Colorado now, I think a lot of my focus has been more towards […] outdoor type of volunteering. So, whether that’d be like – I’m a big fly fisherman, big hiker. You see like litter in the street or on a hiking trail, you get a little frustrated. So, doing some like litter cleanups and things like that has been sort of the focus as of now.
But yeah, it relates to that poverty thing. It was stepping out of my world into somebody else’s. And doing that in high school I think was really, really important for me, because I had such a pretty sure fire like this is how the world works. And then through that experience, and a handful like them, it totally shifted for me.
[00:06:04] JB: That’s great. That makes me feel good. As a father, I got four kids, we did some service projects similar to what you’re talking about. Again, we’re not contractors, but we tend to be pretty handy. We went and helped rebuild after the Moore tornado and in Oklahoma. And we went one trip, and then it opened our eyes to different people, their struggles, and really found it got us out of ours, is sometimes we can be so focused on our own garbage, our own crap. And we turned right around and said, “We need to take our kids.” And so, we did, I think two, three, maybe four more trips, and brought our kids on that so that they could experience it too. So, that gives me hope for my kids. [inaudible 00:06:50] to that was positive. And great to see you continue that. So, thanks for chatting with me about that.
I think travel and volunteering are two things. Like, you got to do because you get – And you called it a bubble. Like, you get in your own little bubble and you get very, I think, not self-centered, but you focus on that. And until you travel, until you volunteer, like you don’t really see what other people’s lives are like.
[00:07:19] NB: Yeah, I think you are like what the world around you kind of like allows you to be. And so, like by shaking that up a little bit, I think you’re going to welcome in some new opportunities for you to grow, just kind of see like why people are the way they are in a lot of respects. And so, yeah, being able to travel and volunteering. And your kids, I think they’re going to – They’re, from my experience, I look back on that and be like, “Man, this was a cool thing to do. I’m going to do this more often.”
[00:07:41] JB: Yeah, I hope so. We’ve done it a bunch. And I always drag them with me. So, let’s see how they feel about it later. So, cool. Talk to me, how do you find the affiliate marketing channel? What’s your origin story? What was that path like?
[00:07:53] NB: Yeah. So, in college, I really fell into the outdoor pursuits, primarily, like camping and climbing. And if anybody has started to go in deep on those hobbies, they realize […] how expensive it gets, and how quickly it gets there. And so, I was just watching gear review after gear review on like tents. What’s the best sleeping pad? All of these things. And I kept hearing from these guys I was watching, like, if you clicked on the links below, like, you’ll help support the channel. And I was curious what they meant by that. And I just did a little Googling. I was like, “Oh, affiliate links. That’s a neat concept.” I kind of left it there. But I was an advertising student all throughout college as well.
And so, I remember even asking my professors about it, and they were like, “Yeah, I mean, it’s part of like this sort of ad tech. It’s not really what we’re talking about in class. It’s not relevant right now.” But I was like, “I mean, it seems like an interesting way to advertise and get in front of consumers, but we left it at that.”
After I graduated, I did a brief six, seven-month stint in freelance media where I had two clients, one was actually a rather large national safe manufacturer that I was lucky to get in from my sister’s boyfriend. And was trying to act as if I knew what I was doing, but I just graduated. So, I’m just a sponge. I’m trying to learn as much as possible. And I remembered affiliate marketing. And even though it wasn’t relevant to this particular campaign, I did more of a deep dive on it, and we started to get a bit more brought into that world.
And as I moved away from freelance, I was ready for a move to Colorado. That’s just where my hobbies, my heart, everything just pointed to go there. Growing up in Kansas, Colorado was like the neighbor with the cooler yard, the mountains, the streams, everything.
[00:09:27] JB: Because Kansas is flat, right?
[00:09:30] NB: It is, yeah. Everyone’s like, “Do you ski? Do you snowboard?” I’m like, “I’ve sled before like on the hill behind Walmart. But I don’t know if that makes me ready for that blue diamond.” But at any rate, I was making my move out here. I was looking just for advertising jobs. I had a background. I had a little stint and freelance. And I was very fortunate to find Sovrn. And specifically, three months after, they had just made a major acquisition of a company then called VigLink. And they were looking for someone to manage an entry level manager in the affiliate space. And so, it kind of came full circle for me. And I was like, “Oh, this is right where I want to be, Boulder, Colorado. It looks like a great company to work for.” And it brings back into that affiliate marketing space that I was interested at in college, but we never really did much with. Three and a half, almost four years later, here we are.
[00:10:14] JB: That’s great. You’re the, I think, the third or fourth guest that started their search with where they wanted to live. And it’s one thing as a Gen X, or I’m noticing with the generations coming up, is that that never occurred to us. I don’t think anyone I knew was like, “Hey, I want to live here. Let’s go find how we can create a life in that area.” So, I’m finding that that’s really becoming more of a thing for the next generations of, “I’m going to start here. Now, what’s available around there?”
[00:10:44] NB: Oh, yeah. And then you bring in the hybrid work model, and like, it totally blows the lid off. We have two of my teammates here, both Colorado guys, but we have an office out in New York City. And they have too much holding down here, guys in their young 20s. And so, they’re like, “Let’s do the summer in New York City.” So, they’re there. Two or three months into it, they love it. And I think, yeah, it’s a great way to kind of build your career.
[00:11:07] JB: Yeah, during the first year of the pandemic, we closed our office, and my wife and my kids, and I, we don’t have an office anymore. So, we’re thinking, “Why are we spending the dreary parts of the year in Idaho? Why are we still here?” And so, we spent a month on the road with our horses working and homeschooling, and then we would go explore Mount Shasta, California, and the Oregon coast with our horses. And that was fantastic. And I really wanted to show the team that like, “Hey, you got to get your job done. But there’s no reason why you have to sit where you’re sitting today. You can go and move around.
[00:11:46] NB: Absolutely, man. Now, that’s the way to do it.
[00:11:47] JB: That’s great. So, talk to me about – So, why advertising? You’re in college, why was advertising speaking to you?
[00:11:54] NB: Yeah. I was a big fan of Mad Men. I thought that was great show. But more importantly, growing up, I was always – Like, I just chatted with people. I was drawn to people. I wasn’t particularly athletic growing up. But […] one of the strengths I found through everything was like you’re just good with people. And my mom was always like, “You can do something like that with your career. They need people that want to talk to people.”
And I found as I was looking through career paths, I was like – I don’t know if that’s any more true than in the advertising business, specifically on that client management side. So much of the business, I think, as you well know, is building relationships with your partners. And so, I was like, “Well, that sounds like something I have maybe a natural strength towards, and I can refine it, I can become more technical with it. But it felt like I was starting off on the right foot by pursuing that strength. And advertising, it just had that at its core. And after I got into the business, I learned how quickly that was true.
Like, my entire job was just […] high volume portfolio, just tons and tons and tons of clients. But that just meant having tons and tons of calls and really starting to learn what were they trying to accomplish by partnering with us? And what were their pain points through, whether it be through us or other partners that we could maybe help alleviate? And so, yeah, so much of it was relationship and problem solving. And I just wanted to start off in something I felt confident in.
And with that, I think I’ve really found a place for myself in something like the affiliate community, which it’s relative to other industries. I feel pretty intimate in the sense that, like, every time I go to a conference, or I’m part of some communal Slack channel, I see names, and I see faces that I recognize and have talked with. Even if we don’t do business together, like, we have met and chatted because it’s such an intimate pool. So, I think relationships are even more important here in something like the affiliate space. So, really happy that it paid off, and I put my money where my mouth was like, literally, by staking my career on it. But, yeah, I think that’s really what drew me to it.
[00:13:52] JB: That’s awesome. Very similar with me as well, the relationship building and the strategy is important. You talked about client management. You have a large portfolio. Before we dive into who Sovrn is and VigLinks and all of the specificity around that, what have you found to be key elements of good client management?
[00:14:12] NB: It’s a great question. And I think key one, I think, at least for me, has always been just like regularly checking in. I think, especially in high volume portfolio, it’s easy to just […] kind of check off a box and move on to the next thing. But if you’re optimizing, if you’re trying to make something happen with that particular client, you kind of have to come back to that evaluation phase and see how things are going.
So, yes, the relationship is important, but I think that’s where it evolves to more of the technical side of things. And you’re coming back and you’re talking like, “Did this work?” Pulling out where things maybe succeeded, where things could look for improvement, and really driving that forward for the next time you guys sit down together. So, I think that’s a really big part is don’t just set something and forget it. Frequently checking in, coming back. Because at the end of the day, like you’re not really just doing something as a one-off. I think we’re really trying to build something as we move forward and as we bring on new publishers into your campaign. So, whether that’s even a quarterly call, right? Just like, “Hey, how are things looking? This is what I’ve noticed. Is this in line with what you’re thinking?” I think really what people want from a client management experience is feeling as if they’re not in it alone. But you’re working at this from both ends, right? Like, you’re bringing your expertise as the sort of runner of a business, and I’m bringing my expertise as somebody who knows the Sovrn network, and where I think you can succeed here.
That’s at least how I see it. It’s evolved as I’ve moved away from more of a high-volume portfolio. When I was a merchant success manager just starting out, it really was. Just, like, I thought success meant response time, right? And getting that at or under 24 hours. Now, I think it’s coming to them with not a one size fits all, which I think anyone in affiliate knows. You just can’t have that solution. There might be themes and success cases from similar optimizations. But you really have to kind of come at it as a case by case and help build that strategy around whatever KPI you might have, whether that’d be like we want editorial for discovery, or we want to push these promos for increasing our conversion rate. And if we can be proactive in that, if we can come to you before you come to us with that, I think, it elevates the entire relationship, the experience, and it just gets things moving. So, that’s at least my two cents on it.
[00:16:27] JB: Yeah. No. Great things that are definitely – Have you noticed any change in what brands need, or require, or looking for throughout the pandemic? Now, I know, when you say throughout the pandemic, there are a lot of different […] sections of what that looks like and kind of what we’re in now. But have you noticed any changes in demands, expectations, needs?
[00:16:49] NB: I don’t know if I’ve seen a shift in needs. I think I’ve seen, overall, just an elevation in terms of strategy. I think a lot of the time, at least in some of my previous roles here, when I talked with clients, it was sort of a content only approach. And I think the value behind content is phenomenal and speaks for itself. But I think now we talk beyond just publisher type, like whether you be a coupon site or a content site.
And throughout the pandemic, as you know, we were facing headwinds and uncertainty. We were talking really to those key KPIs and how we can help address those through various different types of publishers. So, I think I saw just at a high level. Just we were talking about things at a deeper level. And I think we saw advertisers open up to testing things that maybe they wouldn’t have done in a pre-pandemic era, just because when you have a wrench the size of COVID-19 thrown into the wash, it’s going to shake some things up, and you’re going to want to maybe try some new things to help keep your business afloat and obviously growing, right?
And I think, being an affiliate, being an ecommerce in general, there was, I think, a lot of concern for […] what’s going to happen. And we saw a lot of buoyancy, and we saw a lot of growth, because people are now – For better or worse, they were doing a lot more of their shopping online, and they wanted to be informed about how they were doing that. And so, we kept real busy, as I’m sure you guys did through that time. And I think it’s left us a lot more strategic. It’s left us open to testing things and kind of trying things out just to see how we can perform in some uncertain times.
[00:18:24] JB: Great. So, why don’t you give us and our listeners the lowdown on what is Sovrn? And, I think, congratulations are in order. I think you just got a promotion recently.
[00:18:34] NB: Yeah, thank you. Yeah.
[00:18:35] JB: Right? Senior Strategic Partnerships, Manager. Well done. And I’m sure, well-deserved.
[00:18:38] NB: Thank you very much.
[00:18:40] JB: So, tell us what is Sovrn if a listener has never heard of this organization?
[00:18:47] NB: Yeah, no. Great question. So, Sovrn. We talk about ourselves a lot as Sovrn Commerce. Specifically, what that means is Sovrn Commerce is a sub-affiliate, right? And my elevator pitch there is we’re one publisher, which gives you access to our network of our thousands of publishers. Vice versa, if you’re a publisher, you’re getting access to our thousands of advertisers, right? We partner at scale across every potential vertical, publishers in all sorts of different niches, consumer electronics, fashion, breaking it into a FinTech space a little bit, you name it. And with that, we can help you scale. But we also want to bring that strategy component.
I think one thing people don’t necessarily know about Sovrn is it’s not just the affiliate business. However, it’s an entire organization that’s been around since the early 2010s. That includes an advertising business through […] your traditional banner and display advertising. We have a data business. We have a managed services business. So, if you’re busy, and you got a million plates to spin, and you need somebody to run this for you, we’ve got teammates to help you do that and a whole business line dedicated to it.
And of course, a whole suite of publisher tools to help you kind of understand how your audience is engaging with your site and getting further insights from that. So, Sovrn has been in the ad tech space for a number of years. And when they moved into the affiliate space, it was through an acquisition of VigLink, which I think a lot of people might be a bit more familiar with, just because VigLink had been in the space for a number of years as well.
And so, when we hear Sovrn, it’s not just a rebrand from VigLink to Sovrn Commerce. It’s bringing that whole 10-plus years of experience in the ad tech space to VigLink and becoming Sovrn Commerce under that Sovrn ethos.
And so, I’ve had the unique opportunity of being here post three months of that acquisition and seeing VigLink really and truly evolve and sort of phase out VigLink side, and adopt that Sovrn Commerce ethos and really bring more people to it. Very, very skilled people, smart folks, and plenty more resources than we had when we were just a small, but mighty VigLink team. So, that’s it in a nutshell. We help you monetize that content at scale and connect you with publishers that maybe wouldn’t be able to partner with on a direct basis or manage all of those direct relationships on your own.
[00:20:58] JB: Gotcha. And that’s what I wanted to ask. So, I’d like to ask from a brand and a publisher perspective why it’s a good thing to work through you guys. So, from a brand perspective, tell me a little bit more about what’s the unique value proposition to working with Sovern Commerce? Do you guys hired VigLinks that name completely?
[00:21:21] JB: Are you enjoying the show thus far? We cover so many different strategies and stories on the podcast, sometimes it can be difficult to keep up. We get it. It’s why my team and I compiled the very best strategies, and we counted 20 of them, in affiliate marketing programs and put them together for you, so you can assess the health of your affiliate program and be able to optimize it for the best possible results. You can get that guide at jebcommerce.com/strategies.
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[00:22:24] NB: Yeah. So, VigLinks [inaudible 00:22:25]. It’s been Sovrn Commerce, yeah, for a while. And I think we’ve taken some steps to make sure that like all of the copy and all of that is updated. But, oh, yeah, we’re on the Sovrn Commerce train for sure.
[00:22:35] JB: So, to me from a brand perspective.
[00:22:37] NB: Yeah. If you’re a brand and you’re looking to grow your presence in the affiliate space, it can be a lot of heavy lifting to go and start conversations with publisher A, B, C, and D and then get them to use your link and get that all taken off the ground. I imagine weeks, if not months to really optimize at scale beyond just a handful of publishers.
Partnering with us, like I said, we’ve looked like any other publisher in your chosen affiliate network. When you apply, you might apply to us. Once we’re approved, that whole suite of publishers that we work with are now effectively your publishers, your opportunities. The other thing that I think we bring to that is it’s a totally transparent marketplace, right? Like, we’re not just going to be sending ID 1234 resulted in 100 clicks last month. I think the strategy component comes from that transparency and even knowing who those publishers are. At the end of the day, you’re going to probably know your business a whole lot better than I’m going to by just having a quick chat with you.
So, if you can see the publishers that are promoting you through our network, you might be like, “Hey, there’s a real opportunity with this audience that I may have overlooked,” right? Or just wasn’t savvy to having that have a high-level on your business for our first call. So, that transparency goes very deep in both making sure you’re working with the kinds of publishers you want to work with. But also making sure that we can build strategy proactively.
And beyond that, we also want to make sure you have every control, that if you were going to run this like you would run your direct affiliates, we have those controls in place, right? Like if you want to commission publisher A at this rate and then publisher B at this rate, we can do that. We can do an entire publisher types at this rate. If you want to pre-approve your publishers, we can do that.
We give you effectively the controls to run this as you would run your direct relationships. We’re just bringing far more opportunity to you and quicker so that you can get that off the ground with ease. So, I think that’s really, at the end of the day, what, if I was a brand, I would look at working with Sovrn for. It’s going to be quick opportunity, but with control, right? And with scalability. And you’re not going to be doing it alone.
I think another thing that kind of sets us apart in this space is we have – And this is one of the great things that’s come post-acquisition of super robust team. In my first couple of months here, we had two people. Now we have five direct account managers or directors who are going to be talking with you about any question you might have, including our super robust support team, which wasn’t here when I was initially signed up to work and manage our advertisers. Not to mention our network quality team, which has expanded quite a bit to make sure that our publishers are being vetted as they sign up proactively and reactively to make sure that you can feel confident when you sign up with us that you’re getting the publishers you would seek out on your own accord, right? So, that is not exactly an elevator pitch on the value proposition. But I think it’s important to kind of cover really what you get when you partner with Sovrn Commerce.
[00:25:23] JB: It’s just a longer elevator ride. Just slightly longer.
[00:25:25] NB: That’s right. Yeah, we’re going – Yeah, it’s the executive suite over here.
[00:25:30] JB: Yeah, yeah, penthouse. So, one thing you mentioned was transparency. I didn’t have it on my list of questions. But I’m really glad you brought that up. With similar organizations a brand can work with, that’s been sometimes a problem for brands to kind of get around, is whether there’s – One of the great things about affiliate marketing is scale and speed. And sometimes you also get scale and speed of things that you don’t really want to approve, you don’t want to be happening.
So, offers getting released or anything like that. And so, we’ve noticed, as working with some of your competitors, that transparency has been a big problem of knowing, “Okay, who is this affiliate?” And I’d like to talk to them. They’re doing well. I love the scale. But I’d like to actually talk to those two, because I think they can do – And I have some ideas.”
So, in other models, there’s been very much a veil between who the publisher is and the brand. What you’re saying is, that’s a quite a bit different with you guys.
[00:26:29] NB: Absolutely. Yeah, we think that the transparency piece is as – And we know what’s important, right? If I was a brand, I would want to know, what are these clicks coming from? So that’s IMA, right?
But so, too, does it also speak to like the strategy. Just like you said, like, I want to talk with those guys. I’ve been on so many calls where we just bring a publisher and advertiser on the call. Because, again, that advertiser knows their business. That publisher knows their business. We want to create efficiencies for both of those customer types. Not create, like you said, a veil and make things murky and hard. The entire point here is to scale your business and find new opportunities. If we can do that, like we’ve done our job. I’m very happy to have those opportunities done. And I think that’s what speaks to optimizations and getting things to a place away from like a one size fits all and to a strategic place. So yeah, I think transparency has been super important for us.
And one, it always made it easy, that’s for sure. I think when you partner with every major affiliate network, you’re dealing with a lot of different architectures in terms of how those networks – How do they see transparency? How do they deliver transparency? So, it’s a bit of a technical lift, but it’s one we’re fine making that investment in, and we’ve done it across the board with some of our major networks, where we’re finalizing the last two right now. And so, we haven’t always made it easy. We totally recognize that part. But where it’s something we’ve been investing in.
We have our own merchant dashboard even, which provides just plain old domain level transparency reporting. So right off the bat, even if it’s one publisher sending you clicks, you’re going to have a sense for who that is. And if even at that point, if there’s still questions about who you’re working with, that’s where our support team comes into play. That’s where I come into play. And we get those questions answered for you.
[00:28:07] JB: Awesome. So, talk to me from the publisher side. If we have publishers listening, what’s the benefit to working through you guys instead of directly? And kind of what do you offer them?
[00:28:17] NB: Yeah, absolutely. So without rehashing the scalability, right? There’s going to be a ton of advertisers, you have the chance to work with. We also have super unique products you can use. VigLink, what they did was, they really envisioned, what products are going to be helpful for publishers. Because the end of the day, those are the products that are also going to drive value for the advertiser, right? But it always starts with that publisher.
And so, what Sovrn – Again, talking about that Sovrn ethos, they’ve always considered themselves sort of a product-led company. Meaning, like, we have to have the right products for our customers to be successful. And so, I think the largest value to a publisher signing up with us is you’re going to have, at your disposal, our convert tool, which is going to turn any advertiser that we have a relationship with right then in there into an affiliate link. You don’t have to go and build that link yourself, right? Which can be a little bit laborious. Beyond that, we also have our – We just recently acquired Monetizer 101, which is a price comparisons widget.
So, if you are in this sort of publisher model where you want to create really easy listicles. If you want to give your users choice on where they buy something, you can use our comparisons widget to basically help your users have a little bit of choice. That’s going to also take into consideration like what’s the best price for that particular user? Is it in stock? Because there’s nothing worse than clicking on something you want and then saying like, “I can’t get it right now.” It’s going to take all of that into consideration, which is also going to create some incremental opportunities for those advertisers, right? Maybe rubbing shoulders with some competitors and optimizing around that.
And so, we have these products available. And something we’re super excited about that we just got out the beta this week is we now have real time reporting for those publishers. So, they can be very strategic in how they are creating content, right? And I’m talking real time. And like if I were to click on this right now, and then you did a refresh, you would see that click.
So, as we go into Q4, that’s going to be huge for how you’re creating content. Like, is this piece working right now? Are you expecting more volume from this placement? You could see that and be very, very strategic. And that’s really what we want to do for those publishers. We’re here to provide tools for you so that you can be and maintain an independent publisher, do your thing. Just do it well with our products and stay informed. And I think our products help them do that.
[00:30:34] JB: Awesome. Great information. Great answer. So, talk to me, what’s an ideal advertiser for you guys? Do you have specific – You talked a little bit about verticals? Is it vertical specific? But if I’m a brand, what do I have to fit in to really be a superstar in your – Do you call it a network? How do you refer to Sovrn Commerce?
[00:30:53] NB: Yeah, I think network makes sense. We kind of just looked at ourselves as like we’re – As a sub affiliate. We’re just going to have those publishers for networks. But, yeah, network is totally fair. But with that, I think, we’re pretty agnostic to the brands we work with, in the sense that we think we can find opportunity for you. And if we can’t, I want that feedback, right? Like, I want to be like, “Is there supply that you want that we don’t necessarily have at this moment?” Because that’s super valuable for like our publisher growth team that can then go out and market. And so, having those conversations and bringing on publishers that are going to be more relevant to certain models?
I think, right now, where we see a lot of success, as affiliate probably does in general, is like in your apparel, your consumer electronics, growing in automotive. We work across virtually every major vertical. And of course, I think we definitely do better in some verticals like your more traditional verticals like that.
But even if we don’t – If you’re in a sort of niche area, again, I want that feedback. I want to talk with an advertiser like that and see what’s a successful campaign look like for you? So, we can kind of try and bring some opportunity that way. I think, holistically, what’s going to make an ideal advertiser is an advertiser, they’re open to testing things, we can try things out, we can look at bringing on publishers, advertisers that are willing to have conversations with pubs about optimizing, and maybe setting a specific rate trying a hybrid model out. If we can test things out, we can really start to answer the question of what’s going to work here? And if we can do that, then I think we’re building and we’re creating strategy together. And that’s really what I get excited about, especially in this strategic new role. So yeah, that’s the bread and butter.
[00:32:27] JB: Great. And so how does the relationship work? For our listeners who may not know, Sovrn Commerce joins the brand affiliate program. That gets access to this network of publishers. Payment goes through the network that the brand is on. And I assume you guys get a percentage of if the commission structure is 20%, you guys take some and give the rest to the affiliate. And you take care of the billing of all the sub affiliates.
[00:32:55] NB: Yeah. No, you nailed it. So yeah, we operate, again, just like any other publisher you’d see in your network. We’re Sovrn Commerce. We’ll join up with you. You might apply to us. We might apply to you. And then, yeah, that billing is absolutely right. There’s no […] flat fee or signup cost associated. There’s a small rev share that actually we be negotiated individually with each publisher. And so, it’s just whatever rate you set in that network, that’s just what the publisher is going to see. And then they have those terms set with themselves. So yeah, it’s a super low lift, which is another thing I think it makes partnership with us attractive, is that we can just partner. We can try things out. You’re going to have all of those transparencies and controls available in a week’s time. You can talk with me, Eric Scudder, who runs a couple other of our big networks, as well as our sponsored content business. [inaudible 00:33:39], who are is our latest hire out of the UK helping us grow in the UK market, bringing some of that knowledge and insight. So, that’s what we’re here for. And like I said, this team has expanded so much since when I first started here, that it’s actually it’s great to see. I get so stoked having like a full-fledged team now. So, that’s what we’re here for. We’ll answer those questions.
[00:33:58] JB: Awesome. So, what’s onboarding look like for a new advertiser? Is it as simple as approving your application and then –
[00:34:04] NB: Yeah. I think, by and large, yeah, we get accepted, or we get the program started in network. From there, we have to make an internal record. This is where I like to have conversations with brands and make sure we have all those geos set correctly. Where do you guys want to strategize? Do you want to work with certain publishers over others? But the onboarding takes, if we want to, it can take anywhere under 10 minutes, if we’re talking about it in real time. If we’re doing it organically, within 24 hours, we’ll have an internal records set up with all of the T and C’s that you have set in that network. So, our publishers will see that. And then, yeah, those publishers are free to start promoting you at that time.
Of course, we have different optimization options. If you […] want to join and come on swinging hard right out of the gates, we can get you in front of our network through a couple of different optimization options. Or you can always try and see how do we perform organically with the Sovrn Network and come back to me in a week or so and see if we want to scale in the network and get in front of some of those publishers. At the end of the day, we want to leave those decisions to the brand to make for themselves. But we’re here, of course, to help steer those conversations and bring our own sort of knowledge on how the Sovrn Network works and help you be as successful as you possibly can.
[00:35:15] JB: So, you mentioned there’s some optimization aspects or things available to get in front of the right publishers. What’s a fully optimized the campaign look like, so the brand can get their heads around that?
[00:35:27] NB: Absolutely. That’s a great question. Again, I’m a vast believer that there isn’t necessarily a one size fits all solution. But I do think that there are a few tried and true tactics to kick things off, right? First and foremost, I think you got to let the network know you’re a part of the Sovrn advertising base now, right? So, we have a few methods to do that.
We also work with our publisher team very closely, right? Like I see us as two sides of one coin. So, if you sign with us, we’ve had a conversation, that’s going to be a part of my weekly sync with the publisher team, because we want to make sure that we’re being proactive from our side as well. But if you want to get out in front of that whole network, we can do that, right? let’s just say, we get you in a newsletter, blast it out to our network. You have joined the Sovrn Network. Here’s your commission rate. Heck, here’s even really enticing offer that we’re running right now, if you want publishers to just put that up on page and get some traction moving early.
From that point on, I think we give it a little time to see like organically just from that newsletter alone, or what have you, our network blasts. And how do we see you picked up in that first week or two weeks? Right? That’s what our team is here for, right? We want to have those conversations to be like, “Well, here’s where you’re at right now.” We can even do some competitive analysis. But here’s where some of your competitors are right now. Here are those opportunities. This is where the strategy, I think, kind of comes into it. And we start to pull out publishers that we see working with you. And we start some conversations with those publishers, right?
Or we see – It’s interesting. We see in your competitive set publishers, A, B and C do quite well. We should be starting […] conversations over there and see maybe why they aren’t promoting you, right? So, that’s where those conversations start to come into full. If it comes to, do we want to create a specific hybrid deal with that publisher? Whether that be through a slightly elevated CPA just to that particular publisher, or some flat fee associated with it if they have particular optimization that they’re running that month. So, we’ll negotiate up those details. And we start to have these individual campaigns running with these publishers in the network.
And then we’ll come back – And like I said at the top of the call, we come back to it, right? We do that evaluation period, which I think is so crucial and often can be the thing that’s easy to forget when you’re optimizing. Let’s come back and see how it works. And if we see that publisher A and B did awesome, C kind of maintain, we’ll know to put some efforts into A and B and start talking forward about like, “This is what, I’m sure, everybody listening to this podcast right now is doing, is Q4 prep.” I’ve done so much testing in Q3 to see […] who’s working well? What are they receptive to? What can we do around X% CPA rate?” So, in Q4, we have all of these dialed in and ready to go.
And so, that’s why I think that evaluation piece is so important, is we can come back and see what’s worked. Now, we’re fully optimized, right? Now, we can look forward. We can rinse and repeat this, as we bring on new publishers, which we do every day. Our publisher growth team is out in market bringing on super high-caliber, new publishers, that you can look to optimize there. So, we’ll continue to bring those opportunities to you as we move forward.
So, that’s why I say, it’s never just going to be a one size fits all. We got to see what publisher is going to work for you. What do they have available? And what publishers are we bringing in that are going to be relevant to your brand, that we can do this again at like next Q3 with publishers, D, E, and F? So, I think that’s sort of how we see it. That’s certainly how I do it certainly in this new role, and just bringing that strategy to it. So again, not the elevator pitch, but –
[00:38:43] JB: Yeah, that’s okay. We’re at minute 40. So, we’re moving on the elevator pitch. Does that sort of optimization happen organically? Like, if we extend an offer to Sovrn and you guys accept, does that stuff happen organically? Or will the brand need to reach out and say, “Hey, we’d like to build a stronger relationship with you guys. We’d like to really scale and get some speed here.” How’s that kind of work out?
[00:39:06] NB: Yeah, I would say always reach out to us. So, our dashboard is going to automate quite a bit for our publishers. If you kick us a CPA, we ingest those directly from the network. This is a brand-new UI. So, this is a V1. But we’re working on showing commission rate trends. So, if you’re a publisher, you can see, “Okay. It’s the last time they’ve updated that contract. We’ve seen X% increase, or decrease, or what have you.” So, it won’t always have to be necessarily a conversation. We’ll just kind of let that data speak for itself.
But if you’re trying to build a campaign, if you’re trying to strategize, that’s really where we kind of come into the fold, me and my team. So yeah, please reach out. We want to talk with you guys about what do you have coming up? We know our network very well. We can help you guys basically just take what’s the focus right now and compare that with what we know is going to be working. And do – Like I said, we can do competitive analysis. We can look at what’s been trending in our network as far as success rates? That’s our job. So, reach out to us anytime with those questions. We can help get something off the ground.
[00:40:02] JB: Great. Well, I got one more question for you. Are there any misconceptions about Sovrn, Sovrn Commerce, that you want to talk about today that brands may have that they’re just misconceptions?
[00:40:14] NB: Yeah. No. I think the biggest one is that we’re still VigLInk. And I came from that VigLink side. When I applied, I applied to Sovrn, but I was getting […] email addresses from people at VigLink. It was very confusing. But yeah, it’s beyond just that rebrand, right? Like, it’s a full adaptation of the Sovrn ethos, and coming into a business that has been around since the early 2010s and brings so much to what the commerce business has become. I think that’s primary one.
[00:41:15] JB: Gotcha, gotcha. Like you said earlier, we are transitioning that out. So, Nick, if a publisher or a brand is listening to this, they want to get in touch, they want to form a relationship and move forward, what’s the best way for them to do that?
[00:41:28] NB: Yeah. You can start with me, it’s just email@example.com. Very creative. Or our commerce support team, which is just going to be firstname.lastname@example.org. And it’s just going to help get the conversation started. Like I said, we got a ton of smart people here to help you get onboarded. And I think we tried to add our UI do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. So, even if you just wanted to visit our website, we make it very easy to get started and answer any questions. So yeah, me personally. Like I said, I’m a talker. So, happy to talk with anybody anytime.
[00:41:58] JB: Great. Great. So, we’ll include the email, and I’ll include a link to your LinkedIn if that’s okay? They can follow you there as well. But Nick, thank you. This was a great conversation. Really enjoyed getting to know you and Sovrn and shedding a little more light on you guys for brands and publishers alike. But yeah, thank you for joining us. We will have – For our listeners, all of this will be in the show notes as well. And like Nick said, if you want to get in touch with him, email@example.com, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nick, thank you for joining us today. Really appreciate your time.
[00:42:32] NB: Thank you, Jamie. This was a blast. I had a great time. Thank you.
[00:42:38] JB: Well, first, Nick, thank you so much for joining me today. I really appreciate you taking the time. I thought it was a great conversation. One, I really appreciate your heart for serving and helping others. That’s something that we definitely tried to instill in my family. We even have what we call the JEB service swarm, where once or twice a year, we go out and help someone in our local community. It’s gotten a little more tougher as we got more remote since the pandemic. But we still try to go out and help others. And I think you’re exactly right. It definitely changes your perspective. If you bring away one thing from this podcast outside of affiliate marketing, it’s get out there, volunteer, serve other people. It really will change your life, change your perspective.
So, talked about a lot of other things. One of the things I really appreciated most about Sovrn is the transparency. A lot of times with sub affiliate networks, you really don’t get that level of detail of what partner is actually – Who are they? What are they doing to promote your brand? And so, for a lot of brand conscious advertisers who are apprehensive about just letting their offers and their links go out in the wild, sub-affiliate networks can be a little scary. The transparency that they provide is definitely appreciated. And it seems like a very easy way to get integrated. We work with them in many of our programs and can attest to that.
For publishers, they have some pretty cool tools that they provide. And so, yeah, definitely, if you’re thinking about scaling and growing in Q4, it’s definitely something you want to look at. If you don’t know if that’s the right strategy for you or not, then please let us know. You can get a hold of us and we can have a conversation about this at email@example.com. Or you can go and just put time on our calendar, calendly.com/jamiebirch.
And if you want to work with Sovrn and you want to find out more directly from them, Nick gave us two email addresses. You can go to firstname.lastname@example.org. And Sovrn is S-O-V-R-N. That’s Sovrn. Or email@example.com. And you can also search for Nick Baker on LinkedIn, and follow Nick and talk to him there. So, we work with Nick and Sovrn on many of our affiliate programs and can attest to a great relationship with them. So, thank you for listening to this podcast.
Now, if you found this helpful and useful, definitely share it on your socials. If you know someone in your network that really would benefit from learning more about this type of affiliate and Sovrn specifically, then definitely send this episode directly to them. And it would go a long way to get the word out about this podcast if you left us a five-star review, whether that’s on Apple Podcast, Stitcher, Spotify, or the podcast player of your choice.
Now, we are prepping season three, wrapping up season two. But season three is coming out in January, and we are looking for exciting new guests. So, if you know of anyone that you think we should be interviewing, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and just put guest idea in the subject line. We will definitely get out there.
Now, we have made a commitment to have 50% of our guests from marginalized classes. And so, if you know anyone in those groups that should be on the podcast, definitely let us know. We will make sure they go to the top of the list. Anyway, thank you for making it this far in the Profitable Performance Marketing podcast episode today. We appreciate you guys listening. Have a wonderful day.