Season 01 / Episode 023
Todd Crawford – Co-Founder at Impact, first CJ employee and long time affiliate marketing industry thought leader
With Todd Crawford - Co-Founder, VP of Strategic Initiatives, Impact
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It isn’t often that you get a chance to have a conversation with someone that has been at the very beginning of our industry and was a catalyst at two of the most impactful technology solutions in our space over the last 20 years. Today I get to do just that. Today I speak with long time friend, industry vet and the very first employee at Commission Junction, Todd Crawford!
As I stated above, Todd was the very first employee at Commission Junction and since then has established himself as a thought leader in our space and helped launch one of the most innovative technology platforms in our space.
On this episode we discussed the “other” marketing channel, Partnerships. Todd did a great job of explaining the difference and need for partnerships and how Impact, his current venture, empowers this channel to scale.
If you are an affiliate marketer or an advertiser that needs to find new channels for growth, has been pushed to go beyond the known affiliates and couponers, or you are simply looking to jump start your idea creation, then this podcast is for you.
You can contact Todd at his linkedin, Impact’s linkedin and Impact’s blog.
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The hardest hurdle of creating a partnership model is the upfront funding. Todd explains that once somebody hears how partnerships can run through Impact, they ask ‘why aren’t we doing this?’ Once you have this conversion, the hardest part is a brand figuring out funding and how to get the ball rolling without disrupting anything we are already doing. Todd mentions the upfront investment with no return initially (unlike the affiliate channel), so funding can be a challenge.
Partnerships that don’t look like advertising, and rather create convenience for the consumer are successful. Todd discusses an example of a consumer booking a flight and then immediately after seeing a list of available Airbnb’s in that certain city. This doesn’t look like an advertisement up front, and instead is seen as an integrated experience that is making his or her life easier. These partnerships are valuable and many companies are growing their businesses this way currently.
When creating Impact, we wanted to shift how people look at the industry.
“We centered around two key things. One was the pricing model – we thought the previous models we had worked with were wrong and overpriced. The industry had matured and we couldn’t demand 30% spend or even 20-25%. This isn’t something most brands consider today… And the other side was focusing on the technology and data. We truly wanted to be a tech company and deliver all the technology and capabilities that people had been asking for.”
The most exciting thing in the affiliate channel right now is partnerships.
“Partnerships are a piece of the big umbrella of affiliate marketing. If you’re an affiliate marketer, it’s great right now because there are so many existing affiliate businesses out there that know what they’re doing. If you’re a new brand or a new program, you can gain traction quickly. There is a lot of low hanging fruit in plug & play relationships that don’t involve a ton of work to get up and going. When you start to go beyond these companies, it’s not as easy… as we evolved our technology and our clients [at Impact], we started seeing them forging partnerships that were outside of the traditional, and that to me is most exciting.”
[12:22] – “Back then, nothing was changing. The affiliate networks were business as usual, and we wanted to take that to the next level. When I was at CJ, the biggest complaints we got from all types of customers (brands, agencies, etc.) were centered around feature requests and added capabilities. It never got built and never was prioritized. We got the band back together… in January 2008, Impact began in a room with three floor to ceiling whiteboards and everyone writing down their ideas.”
[32:06] – “Sometimes when it comes to partnerships, the affiliate team isn’t even running them. It depends on the mindset of the company and who’s driving the concept of partnerships for the advertiser or brand. It has to take C-level funding and a green light.. their whole job is to grow the company’s revenue. You can’t double your marketing or sales team, so this new option is partnerships.”
[42:23] – “The biggest struggle some companies have is figuring out who their partners could be. How do they go about identifying these and knocking on the right door? This is different than the affiliate team DNA, as affiliate is more nurture based. Cold calling business and finding these business development conversations means you need a hunter on your team.”