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Greg HoffmanGreg Hoffman is the Founder and CEO of Apogee Agency, an award-winning affiliate marketing agency. With more than twenty years of experience in digital marketing, Greg has cultivated a reputation for integrity and an adherence to a rigorous set of standards that protect and nurture affiliates and merchants alike.

Before founding Apogee Agency, Greg served as leader of various agencies specializing in marketing and public relations. Affiliate Summit has selected Greg as a speaker nine times and his sessions have consistently ranked in the top ten by every standard: content, speaker, attendance, and audience growth.

 

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • How Greg Hoffman helps brands understand and plan for affiliate marketing programs
  • The types of brands that are ideal for affiliate marketing
  • How changes in Amazon’s affiliate program have affected Greg’s business and his clients
  • The process of rethinking and updating consumer-facing content to attract new audiences
  • Greg talks about the two sides of the affiliate marketing industry and how they have evolved over the years
  • The moment Greg realized he was good helping brands build their businesses
  • Affiliate software that brands should pay attention to

In this episode…

When working with new brands looking to get into affiliate marketing, Greg Hoffman starts by talking to them about expectations. Based on what he has seen over the years, he wants brands to understand that affiliate marketing is not a silver bullet. While it does bring in new customers, it may take time to substantially increase sales.

Because of this, Greg has a few tried and true strategies to quickly and successfully get a brand’s affiliate marketing program off the ground. First, brands need to know who their target audience is and what products are ideal for them. They also need to get their overall website, sales, and conversion rates affiliate ready. So, are you prepared to launch a profitable affiliate marketing program?

Greg Hoffman, the Founder and CEO of Apogee Agency, joins James Thomson in this week’s episode of Buy Box Experts to talk about how he helps brands launch their affiliate marketing programs. Greg discusses the evolution of the affiliate marketing industry, the recent changes to Amazon’s affiliate program, and the types of brands that are best suited for affiliate marketing. Stay tuned.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

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Episode Transcript

Intro  0:09  

Welcome to the Buy Box Experts podcast we bring to light the unique opportunities brands face in today’s e commerce world.

James Thomson  0:18  

I am James Thomson, one of the hosts of the Buy Box Experts podcast. I’m a partner with Buy Box Experts and the former business head of the selling on Amazon team at Amazon, as well as the first account manager for the Fulfillment by Amazon program. I’m also co-author of the Controlling Your Brand in the Age of Amazon book and co founder of Prosper Show, one of today’s largest continuing education conferences for Amazon sellers. Today’s episode is brought to you by Buy Box Experts. Buy Box Experts takes ambitious brands and makes them unbeatable. When you hire Buy Box Experts, you receive the strategy optimization and marketing performance to succeed on Amazon. Go to buyboxexperts.com to learn more. 

Before I introduce our guest today, I’d like to call a big shout out to the firm at Disruptive Media for its work in Amazon advertising, focusing and driving traffic, converting traffic and enterprise analytics. Disruptive helps their clients increase their bottom line month after month. Go to disruptiveadvertising.com to learn more. 

Today, we are joined by Greg Hoffman, CEO of Apogee Agency, an affiliate marketing agency. Previously, Greg served as leader of various agencies specializing in marketing and public relations. In 2014, the affiliate marketing industry awarded Greg’s Apogee agency with the agency of the Year Award, here to share his ideas on how brands can build broader audiences through affiliate marketing. We welcome Greg. Thanks for joining us today. Greg.

Greg Hoffman  1:53  

Thank you very much.

James Thomson

So you don’t my business partner Joe Hanson. Tell me more how you both came to know each other. 

Greg Hoffman 1:54  

So Joe was my first good case study. In November 2009. He and his wife and some friends had started a company called Flirty Aprons. And they immediately launched an affiliate program and they needed some help. So he contacted me. And in the first conversation, he says, We, we’ve got these aprons, and it’s going to be a huge hit. And we need some help. And I said, You’re absolutely crazy. No one’s gonna buy aprons. It’s 1009. Yep. No one buys aprons. What’s Why? Why do you think this is going to work? And I was quickly quieted, because the bloggers that we brought into the program, loved the aprons, loved the styles, and we sold thousands of units just in the first couple months. So I managed that program for nine years, and Joe was the original owner and survived several different owners. But I know Joe doesn’t like the word aprons because he sold and lived with aprons for many years. 

James Thomson

Joe, can handle it, he can handle the use of the word apron. That’s great. Well, I’m really glad that you’re with us here today. I want to start by asking a fairly broad question about brands. When we think about brands, that’s the client base we work with, it’s the client base that you work with. brands don’t always understand what audiences might be interested in their products and their messages. When you’re talking to brand prospects. How do you help them think about the need for affiliate marketing and where to begin the journey of identifying customer niches and websites that might be interested in affiliate marketing their products, a couple different thoughts there. 

Greg Hoffman

So first of all, I’m always talking about expectations. I want to make sure that the brands understand my history and affiliate marketing and what we’ve seen with all of our different launches And takeovers, and in the way I see it is, if we’re going to launch a new program in 2020, then at the six month mark, sales are only going to be in the five to 15% of your overall online sales. So affiliate marketing isn’t a silver bullet. It is a channel that definitely brings you new customers. But a launch is definitely going to take time. It takes six to 18 months to get an affiliate program up and running. But a good mature program that’s two or three years old, could be adding 25 to 30% of your business overall. So you’re a new brand, you’re getting launched, you don’t really understand who’s ultimately going to end up buying your products. How do you start the process with brands to think about, okay, there’s a world of websites out there, there’s a world of influencers, there’s a world of organizations and channels that we can be going To tell our story, how do you help figure out where to start? And how to build from that so that you have a comprehensive affiliate marketing program? Well, I tell them to wait, first of all, I want to make sure that all the other channels are working first. So if they’re going to be on marketplaces, they have to have proven conversion. Okay, they have to know that paid ads work, paid social works, their email works, they’re building a community. And that, you know, they have to get to a certain level of overall online sales to make sure that affiliates are going to be interested in joining the program. Because right now affiliates are busy promoting companies that have been around for five to 10 years. And they’re, we as an affiliate Management Agency, we have to interrupt their day, and tell affiliates about this brand new company, and we have to prove to them that they’re going to make money. And that doesn’t always work because these affiliates are busy. They’re all Doing something else. So a new brand is a little bit hard to launch. Do you like to see brands established online and offline? Or do you work with brands that might be just digitally native brands? How do different influencers think about the breadth of coverage that brands might have? Well, the probably the best example is going to be an online retailer that only sells on their website, that is going to be the absolute best outcome. They’re not on marketplaces, they’re not on retail shelves. The only place they can buy their specific product is online. And there’s got to be huge demand and a huge audience. That’s when affiliate marketing is magical for the brand.

James Thomson  6:54  

So what makes it magical when you only have an online presence? I think of brands that are available in broad, broadly based retail settings, where there might be a lot more consumer awareness that that’s very different than the situation like you’re describing where the brand only exists online. How does that make your job easier when it’s only an online brand? 

Greg Hoffman

It’s about conversion on the online experience. So I can go to a box store down the street and buy a product. If it’s going to be more convenient to buy online, if I can only buy it online, then the conversion is going to be higher, and affiliates, okay. affiliates only care. In my instance. They only care about conversion. The Commission is a good part of it. But it’s at that intersection of conversion and commission, how much are they going to actually make? And then what is the potential long term so conversion matters over everything else? 

James Thomson

So let’s talk about conversion. I don’t want to bring Amazon into the discussion. Amazon last year, or I’m sorry, earlier this year turned down the affiliate commissions that they were paying themselves and I’m assuming that that’s changed the way you think about the overall affiliate marketing program. At the same time, Amazon has also worked on finding ways to get very much more into the retargeting business which may serve as a substitute in some ways to certain types of affiliate marketing spend. How do you look at where Amazon is today and how that impacts you positively and negatively? 

Greg Hoffman

Well, Amazon does have the biggest affiliate program in the world. And they’ve taught lots of bloggers how to earn their first checks. Yes. And so it’s good affiliate marketing one on one, but then the smart affiliates are going to look at, you know, it can if I work with this brand directly, I’m going to make it More, the conversion might be a little bit higher on Amazon. But Amazon’s only paying 3%. Now. So as for us, specifically, over the last few months, we’ve inherited lots of refugees from Amazon, hundreds of them, and some of them were coming to us saying, I’m sending Amazon 2000 clicks a day, and I was making X amount of money. Yes. How can you help me? And I would, and then that’s when my team comes in and says, well, you don’t have to make 3% anymore, we’re going to start paying you 15%. But the conversion is going to be just a little bit less, because Amazon always converted. Well, just what you didn’t always understand what the average order was going to be. But with us, I’ll tell you what my average order is for this particular brand. And I’m going to tell you what I’m going to pay you. 

James Thomson

So what have you had to retrain these bloggers and then these affiliates, what have you had to retrain them on as you’ve taken them from the expectations of getting our being in business with Amazon And now having to deal with organizations they might not otherwise have dealt with in the past. 

Greg Hoffman

There is a learning curve to learning a different platform. You know, they’re coming to us , they’re starting to share and sell more, they’re starting to impact more cJ pepperjam. They’re learning. Maybe they dabbled with the networks on the tracking platforms before but they were used to just creating an Amazon link and putting it on their site. Now they’ve got to learn how to promote specific brands, specific products, and they’ve got to work with multiple managers as opposed to just one interface. So it’s a little bit of a learning curve for them to understand all the nuances of these networks. And now they’ve got to work with 19 different companies, individually as opposed to one right all right. So as we think of what an or what a brand needs to do, to be ready to start in Entering into the affiliate marketing space. Part of the mechanics of making this work is that brands have to have their keywords properly optimized, they have to have a message that’s going to resonate. 

James Thomson 

When we think about keyword optimization on Amazon, there are several steps and there’s a recipe that brands need to take. Help me understand these affiliates that are now starting to work with you. They’re traditionally working through Amazon, how do they need to rethink the content that they’re actually preparing to be putting on other people’s websites?

Greg Hoffman  11:33  

Good question. So we do want them to do as much research as possible on the exact products and the keywords and they’ve got to test they’ve got to figure out what categories are going to work best for them. And sometimes a brand isn’t going to convert for them. Every single website is going to convert differently because everybody’s got different landing pages and different funnels. So they could send us traffic and it’s not going to convert. Well, they could go to our competitor that has a different funnel or a different style. And it’s going to work better for them. So we’re just trying to teach them as much as we can about our style of affiliate marketing, how to use the platform. And we’re there to be resources for activation and education. Most of the affiliates that are coming from Amazon are smart affiliates. They’ve been around for a long time. So they don’t need lots of hand holding. So it’s just a little bit more of the reactive education as opposed to proactive education. Okay. So the process of actually making your products relevant for consumers and for the different audiences you’re going after requires you to understand who your audiences are and what resonates with them for Brian ads that are getting into the affiliate marketing space? How do you help them define different pockets of audience and different types of messages for those different pockets? I’m curious if I knew anything about affiliate marketing, and I wanted to get into the space? Am I looking through large directories of different websites and saying, Oh, I think my audience would resonate with that group and that group? How does that work? How mechanical is it? How manual is it? How automated is it? How can you refine and become better at matching what you think your brand will offer in terms of features and benefits with the potential audiences that these different landing sites might have? Well, we build very balanced programs. So I look at there there’s all these different models of affiliates, so I’m always looking at, we do work with some coupon affiliates. We do work with some loyalty and cashback we have a paid search affiliate, we like we have a shopping cart abandonment affiliate we like but then we also go out And we find those niche affiliates that either have comparison websites or their regular websites, they’re talking about parenting, or cooking. So there’s all these different models. And we tackle all of them at the same time we bring in the corporate type of affiliates. And then each month we look at a different keyword set of a different niche of type of affiliates. We’re going to go after, okay. And we have our own machines, basically for recruitment. And so we look, we send out hundreds of invitations, and we hope that we get some of them to come back and join the program. 

James Thomson

Talk to me a little bit about the process of updating content on Amazon for brands that are now for the first time selling directly to consumers, they’ll go through this process of building a listing, getting the digital assets to get that listing fully optimized. They may hire an agency like ours to actually run through the mechanics. But this process of building consumer facing content for a lot of brands is still fairly new. If historically, all they’ve ever done is do b2b wholesaling. How do you help brands to staff appropriately and develop the mindset that not only they build content, but they’re gonna have to continue to refresh it, continue to look at new ways of saying potentially the same thing, but ways that will attract new groups of customers over time.

Greg Hoffman  15:31  

Let’s go back to our old friend Joe. Please. We can talk about flirty aprons. So back in 2009 2010, he had one style he had, I think, five different types of aprons. And we sold them and then by summertime, the sales had slowed down. And so Joe and I started thinking, well, we need more styles. So they came up with more styles, okay, and each season, we were starting to think about the new products and the new content that we could put out because the bloggers were definitely getting tired of the same type of sales. So I learned a lot with Joe on flirty aprons, just by understanding the seasonality to the products and the type of contents and you’ve always got to evolve. You can’t just sell the same type of products, you’ve got to, you’ve got to constantly engage the affiliates, you’ve got to engage the customers to expect something new. And, you know, sometimes it’s going to work sometimes it’s not going to work, but you’ve got to try something different, especially when it comes to seasonality. Because you’re now focusing on this intermediate affiliate marketing audience, for brands that are used to putting their products out there and the seasonality will dictate for them whether they sell a little or a lot at a given time. All of a sudden there’s accountability. To this audience that in Joe’s situation, pushed him to have to expand his product selection, to start to dress seasonality issues that may not have been something that he was prepared to deal with initially. 

James Thomson

Take me through other situations where you’ve worked with brands that are so historically b2b, that now as they move into a b2c space, and dealing with affiliate marketing, that they’re having to really rethink the whole process of what it means to communicate directly with consumers. 

Greg Hoffman

Well, I think one of them I met a client three years ago at your show, serenity health and home decor has an affiliate program that I met them at your show, I found out that they had a program on shareasale. And I don’t think any of us were prepared for everyone to be home for the last three months. Yes, and start focusing on sprucing up their backyard. So that was a quiet little program. For the last few years, and they’re they, they’re b2b, but they’re they have a retail site. And so it was a quiet little affiliate program until all of a sudden, everybody wants to start buying outdoor furniture and outdoor gardening equipment. And so that program has increased tenfold over the last few months. So I think they’re now scrambling a little bit trying to figure out, wow, everyone just, we had everything in place. We’ve got a retail store, we’ve got Amazon products, and we had an affiliate program. And now there’s this crush of people because we had everything out there at the right place at the right time. Yes. And now we’ve got a service. So I know that they’re definitely trying to keep up with, you know, the customer service and shipping and sending everything out. You know, it worked, but they’re there right now. No, we’re all scratching our heads like we were not expecting this, we did not see that, you know, sales were going to increase by 10. By 678 hundred percent yes over a two month period.

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