Robert Glazer’s Performance Partnerships: The Checkered Past, Changing Present and Exciting Future of Affiliate Marketing is “the first in-depth look at the performance (affiliate) marketing industry. Examining its roots and evolution, this book offers a better understanding of its impact as a vital form of direct-to-consumer digital marketing, and advice on how it can be used to change marketing and business development practices.” We sit down with him to discuss his book, which is being lauded by the likes of Keith Ferrazzi and Cameron Herold.
What inspired you to write Performance Partnerships? For those who haven’t read the book, explain what Performance Partnerships are?
Performance Partnerships™ provide the essentials of a profitable, sustainable business relationship that works for everyone involved. I believe this framework is the future of affiliate marketing because it requires that people work together in a more transparent and partnership-oriented fashion, not opaquely and against one another’s interests. In the book, I break down the four key components of a Performance Partnership, explain what each part consists of and how companies can start creating them.
The inspiration behind the Performance Partnerships concept has been years in the making. It came from my own experience working as an affiliate over a decade ago, my experience managing clients’ affiliate programs, my conversation with leading global brands and listening to what affiliates, networks and other industry players were saying.
On the surface, affiliate programs are valued for their pay-for-performance structure. In other words, a company only pays their partner when a specified outcome is accomplished. But the model is so much more than that and I wanted to tell that story, paint that picture. What I hope I was able to convey in my book is that I believe that the affiliate model has the potential to be the primary way in which all companies manage, track, measure, scale, and build on their business partnerships. But those partnerships must be performance-based.
I’d also say that another inspiration was that it hadn’t been done before. Thus far, there’s never been a book that tells the story of affiliate marketing; that airs some of the industry’s dirty laundry while also providing insight into how we can learn from those mistakes and come together as an industry to make Performance Partnerships the go-to model that companies use to successfully grow their business over the next five to ten years.
How has your experience in affiliate marketing changed your views of the business outside of the industry?
I wouldn’t say it’s necessarily changed my views of business outside of the industry, but it’s definitely deepened my pre-existing views. And it’s definitely made me even more aware how many companies are spending an exorbitant amount of money on marketing and business relationships that are not based on performance. Too many companies jump on hot new marketing bandwagons simply because they make big promises. But if that marketing strategy isn’t based on performance or isn’t brand-aligned or isn’t transparent, that seems like a waste of marketing spend.
I feel strongly that, in business, partners should bring a certain, agreed-upon behavior to the table and, once that behavior is delivered and tracked, payment should then be made in real time. Unless brands can make a clear connection between the results they’re getting from their partners and the amount of money they’re paying them, there’s no clear performance link. And that just doesn’t seem like smart business.
You described an interesting perspective that affiliate marketing has had to adapt to changes in digital engagement and customer experience. Can you describe how you think this change will continue to evolve?
I’d argue that every online marketing engagement has had to adapt to changes in customer experience—in other words, how customers shop, research, explore and convert online.
Affiliate marketing is, first and foremost, a model; a framework for how brands can reach and engage potential customers and leads. And because it connects brands with people and companies who have significant reach and influence to other people and companies—and can effectively track and measure the performance of that process—it’s an incredibly lucrative and viable model for brands to leverage. But to continue doing that effectively, all the players in the affiliate marketing model (customers, affiliates (publishers/partners), program managers, technology platforms and merchants) must evolve with the way customers engage with the world online.
For example, the proliferation of mobile usage and devices has made it a necessity for the industry to tackle the problem of cross-device tracking. As of right now, the industry has not adapted well and the mobile market has been a smaller piece of the overall ecosystem in the affiliate world than in many other industries. As tracking customer journeys through mobile platforms becomes easier, the mobile share of the affiliate industry could rise to above 50%, with mobile and app publishers becoming key influences in driving demand. There are still many unresolved technical and logistical hurdles that currently hold back mobile commerce, but I’m optimistic that these issues will be resolved sooner rather than later and the solutions will have the potential to radically transform the affiliate industry.
How might you use the concepts in Performance Partnerships to help get the word out about the book?
Offering value. The reason my team and I took the time, energy, resources and effort to write this book is because we honestly believed that it would add value—to those currently familiar with and working in the industry as well as those who are unfamiliar with it but see its potential. I think that’s a key component to performance partnerships. You must give value before you get something in return.
We’ve also been intentional about developing real relationships with our clients and industry partners. We strive to communicate transparently and productively with them so they know and trust what we’re doing.
I’d say that these are two important elements of performance partnerships that have resulted in our clients and industry partners being enthusiastic about helping us spread the word. They not only contributed a significant amount of thought leadership, insights and expertise to the book, many also generously wrote praise for the introduction, shared the book with their friends, colleagues and family, wrote glowing reviews on Amazon, and used their influence to get the word out.
Aside from affiliate marketing, how do you like to build business relationships?
By getting involved, adding value and being a genuine partner. Outside of affiliate marketing, I’m a member of Entrepreneurs’ Organization, a global network for entrepreneurs, which is a wonderful organization in which to learn, grow and build great relationships. I am also a big believer in giving back. I serve on the Board of Directors for BUILD Boston, and I founded The Fifth Night charitable event. Being a part of these incredible organizations is not only personally rewarding, I’ve also met many inspirational business owners and leaders in the process.
And while I didn’t start it to build business relationships per se, my Friday Forward posts have helped me do just that.
What are some industry peer groups people should consider participating in?
Affiliate Summit — they are the curators of numerous industry conferences and resources.
Affiliate Management Days — event for affiliate managers who are responsible for their company’s affiliate marketing strategy, management and operations.
What’s something I can do tomorrow morning to get started?
Get my book, Performance Partnerships!