Affiliate Network Insider — 13 Mar 2018
Each day new players are starting to conquer affiliate marketing industry. They all aspire to achieve great success and hope that someday their names will appear along with the affiliate marketing leaders’. Now we could hardly imagine that days and years ago all these giants were newcomers as well. What were they dreaming of? Which problems did they have? What were the key factors of their success? How did they become globally known? What was the affiliate marketing industry like back then?
We continue sharing the answers to these and many more questions in our series of articles, Affiliate Network Insider*, that touches upon the working life of the biggest and most prominent affiliate networks in the industry. Stay tuned not to miss newest pieces at Affise blog, and welcome our guest, Admitad founder, Alexander Bahmann.
– Admitad is not simply big. It is a giant in affiliate marketing. When we see your volumes and the impact you make in the industry, we hardly believe that a 20-year-old boy stood behind this business. Looking back, how did it all begin?
It all began with one website. I was 15, when Maksim Volohov, who is still my business partner, lent me $27 to launch my own website. In just two years this project grew to the sizes of a company. At the same time I was building my career in a german affiliate network, Zanox, and in 2008 I was included in the list of 10 TOP publishers in Germany. That was quite an achievement but I wanted more. That is how I came up with an idea to launch my own affiliate network. As back in 2009, CPA market in Eastern Europe was just evolving and its volumes were far from those in Germany, I decided to start it there. So I moved to Russia and had been living there for year and a half setting up business processes in Admitad. Despite the economic crisis in Russia back then, the budgets for digital marketing were growing steadily. And as we had the access to relatively cheap traffic, Admitad had become profitable right from the onset.
– What was the most challenging at the very beginning?
As I’ve already mentioned, we initially worked in Eastern Europe countries including Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and Kazakhstan. On the one hand, the opportunities for the development there were huge, as we were the first european affiliate network who started to explore this market. On the other hand, we had to build this market on our own. Сreating a team was quite a challenge as it was very hard to find people who knew anything about CPA. Besides, right from the outset we faced the problem of fraudulent traffic. We worked in gaming niche, where the advertisers were ready to pay up to 2 euros per install. That is why a big number of publishers couldn’t resist the temptation to scam the advertisers. Luckily, we managed to combat fraud very fast without huge losses.
– Now Admitad is not limited to just Eastern Europe, you are growing globally. What is the reason for such expansion?
In 2009 everything was different. Digital penetration wasn’t that huge as it is now, and affiliate marketing didn’t even exist in some countries. So, it’s not an overstatement to say that it was us who brought CPA marketing to Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. I decided not to reinvent the wheel and implemented ready-to-use european approaches. Although it took quite a long time to educate the staff with all the affiliate marketing peculiarities, we started off well and proved that the approaches were working.
Initially, we focused on Gaming vertical for several reasons. First of all, gaming was the fastest growing niche. Second, we were fond of online games too, so it was quite logical for us to promote them. But as we were growing in quality and quantity (we started as a team of 10–15 people with 250% growth yearly), it was evident that we need to scale up our capacity. Thus, we started to discover new niches and grow globally. We opened our offices in Turkey and India on top of those in Germany, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus. In 2015 we came to Indian market, and later on — to China and the United Arab Emirates. India, with its 800 million Internet consumers and relatively low CPA development rate, was one of priorities for us. We have brought our technologies there and now help Indian CPA market to grow and evolve by offering our innovative tools which address the challenges of local affiliate market. Now we see the direction of our global growth and it is already bearing its fruits.
– You mentioned that the affiliate marketing industry has changed a lot comparing to the time when you started. What are the major changes you see now?
The world has changed drastically, and the affiliate marketing has changed as well. Comparing to 2010, I see that the approaches to digital marketing have become more mature. People now have better understanding of what online advertising is, they want to consume high-quality content — all these factors are a catalyst for developing ad blocking technologies, and such giants as Google and Yandex are already working on it. Thus, the market is changing in favor of transparency. The number of countries has already taken measures to regulate advertisers’ activities on the Internet. It touches upon GDPR, in particular. It is a signal that everyone in Europe is fed up with how the personal data is collected and used. The countries are now striving to build the unified system to regulate advertisers’ operations. Advertisers, in return, are also becoming more transparent with their online advertising expenses. And, finally, the affiliate marketing industry now focuses on people more than ever. It’s no longer enough to just hand in an affiliate program. The human factor, communication, building up trusting relations and networking — that is what values most now. It’s crucial to show your partners that you are interested in their business to grow, and do the best to help them with it.
– With so many years in affiliate marketing, I bet you have a bunch of interesting stories happened to you. Can you recollect any of them?
I can remember that several years ago one of our clients couldn’t manage to pay for our service due to a difficult financial situation. So he compensated it with a large shipment of goods, high-quality clothes and shoes. It took us a whole year to pass out this, quite unusual for us, merchandise.
– Your first team counted 10–15 employees, now 350 people are working in Admitad. In 2009 the market was just about to grow and lacked real professionals in the sphere, so you had to build and educate the team on your own. What has changed since then and how do you hire your team members now?
We greatly cherish the team that we managed to grow within these 9 years. The company almost doesn’t see staff turnover, and the majority of our team members work from the very beginning. Some of the newcomers have already become the managers of separate divisions and even the heads of the departments.
We always chase for the best. It doesn’t matter whether you are a talented graduate from the university or an experienced professional. What really matters to us is your activeness and motivation to achieve more. Admitad is a very dynamic company. We constantly set new goals, discover new tools and open new horizons. That is why we aspire our employees to keep up with our ambitions, be proactive and eager to gain success. Besides, we have this unique atmosphere of collaboration and mutual support, where everyone can share their ideas and get the advice. Here in Admitad, we have very democratic rules: we do not set boundaries where they are needless, we do not have a rigid hierarchy, and the employees and their managers care about results more than about procedures and ratifications. We encourage our employees to learn everything new and share their experience with the peers, participating at the webinars in the Admitad Academy. I am a great believer that the atmosphere of development is something organic rather than artificially created. That is why we encourage the initiatives coming from our employees and are always open to productive dialogue.
– What do you think sets you apart from other affiliate networks?
If we talk about a company from the perspective of a living organism, our main asset is in our youth and thirst for constant development. Comparing with the old-school affiliate networks, Admitad is still on the rise that is why we are very dynamic and flexible. As I have already said, we do not have needless bureaucracy, that is common for older companies and often slows down the processes of making decisions and implementing innovative approaches. While some big european networks do not have enough capacities and have to hire exterior agencies and intermediaries, Admitad, instead, is the agency and the affiliate network altogether. Besides, we have offices all around the globe, so we effectively deal with the optimization of the expenses on labor forces. For instance, the developers in Belarus, Ukraine and Russia cost much less than in other countries. Thus, Admitad can increase the team members faster, offering full service to the clients all over the world irrespective of their business size.
– Are there any peculiarities or technical advantages of working with your network?
One of the most important advantages that sets us apart is the global outreach of our business. Thanks to that, we provide our clients with multi-language support and know the local peculiarities of several regions, including Europe, Asia and Middle East. The numbers speak louder than words: in 2017 chinese stores received $500 million profits working with Admitad. Indian cross-border sales increased 14 times compared to the previous year and reached $18 million in 2017.
Besides, we presented a bunch of innovative technologies which set us apart from the other market players:
Mobile SDK is a technology of mobile integration with Admitad, which allows advertisers to track the application installation, user registration, order checkout and payment, return and entering in the application, and more.
CMS Plugins: in 2018 we published the newest plugins for a row of CMS systems, such as WooCommerce, Opencart, 1C-Bitrix, Webasyst, Shopify, InSales, and Magento 1 and 2.
MoneyLink — the technology for monetizing forums, review sites, personal blogs, and other content sites.
Admitad API — Admitad API is a functional interface which gives access to the whole functionality of the admitad.com. It is compatible with all programming languages which supports JSON.
Brandguard — a tool that indicates violations in paid search advertising.
Icstuffers — a tool that analyzes traffic and indicates fraud.
– An affiliate network is an important link between an affiliate and an advertiser. How do you attract affiliates to your network?
I am a great believer that one of the keys to success in affiliate marketing is a balance between technologies and human relations. Admitad is an intermediary helping advertisers and publishers find each other and make their relations as transparent as possible. But it’s not enough to just hand over the affiliate program from no-matter-which advertiser to no-matter-which publisher. It’s very important to treat your partners right, pay attention to their needs and build trusting relations. In this respect, we created a project, Admitad Academy, which helps our advertisers and publishers get to know the peculiarities of CPA marketing and increase their profits with Admitad. We are sharing the videos with the experts publicly and they are available on our YouTube Channel.
Not only are we attending most relevant conferences and events in the industry, where we meet our current and potential partners, we also host some events on our own. For already 5 years we are organizing Admitad Lounge (a huge party for advertisers, publishers and Admitad managers where we combine networking with having some fun) and Admitad Expert (business-conference, where industry leaders are sharing newest trends, insights and expertise). By the way, the sixth Admitad Lounge 2018 is around the corner, and we expect it to be even bigger. We also pay attention to the separate niches in affiliate marketing, so this year we host a specialized conference for representatives from Travel niche, Admitad Expert Travel.
– And what about advertisers? How do you manage relations with them?
To interact with publishers, the advertisers launch affiliate programs. When launching, they determine the terms of the program and configure integration of their websites with the Admitad system. If a program has been launched successfully, it appears in the All Programs catalog where the publishers look for programs to join. When publishers find programs that suit their ad spaces, they apply for cooperation. The applications are displayed in the advertiser account where an advertiser decide whether to approve or decline them.
Once or twice per month the advertiser compares data on actions from the Admitad statistics with the data in their system. This process is called reconciliation. On the basis of reconciliation, the advertisers define the amount of remuneration and make payouts to their publishers. Admitad allows 2 types of reconciliation: manual and automatic. Manual reconciliation requires a lot of time and effort from the account manager as it’s handled manually. What concerns auto-reconciliation, it may be done by one of the following means: through XML-feed, using Postback URL, or through API.
– Your forecast for 2018: what to expect?
I would like to name several trends that I can see in affiliate marketing industry:
– What is your advice for affiliate networks to increase ROI?
I think, that you shouldn’t forget that transparency is the key: an advertiser should always know from which traffic sources and what results they receive to estimate a publisher properly. When it comes to online advertising, the role of transparency has never been more important. Any advertiser counts their money and compares ROI. That is why, if you want to succeed you just have to provide advertisers with accurate statistics, high-quality traffic, and tools that help them make decisions regarding their short- and long-term advertising strategy. Moreover, working with advertisers, TOP publishers should clearly realize who they deal with.
– “TOP Affiliate” — what does it mean to you?
Top affiliate is a publisher that earns $3–5K daily. As a rule, it is not an individual publisher, but a whole company.
– What is the secret of your success?
Understanding that the idea itself will not bring you money is the first step to success. One person can stand behind the idea, but it takes a whole team of professionals to take this idea to the next level. You can’t go it alone, so it’s crucial to value your team, be closer to each and every and take a good care of them.
* AFFILIATE NETWORK INSIDER is a project, covering success stories and inside life of the biggest and most prominent affiliate networks in the industry. Make YOUR story heard by emailing to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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