mThink Blue Ribbon Panel Member, Jackie Bates, recently sat down with Revenue to discuss current trends in performance marketing. Here, we shine a light on Q4 strategy for merchants and two other trending topics.


Put yourself in the position of a clothing or cosmetics advertiser CMO coming into the holiday season.

What are the main points of your plan for the next four months?
By how much should your media budget increase?                                                                                                                                                                                            What kind of return should you expect?

Riding—or missing—the Q4 wave has big implications. Last year, total online sales jumped roughly 18% according to eMarketer. And, the e-commerce industry is expected to surpass the $2 trillion mark in 2017 according to IBM. Further, Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the largest online shopping days of the year—enough said. With early preparation and an effective Q4 strategy employed, at LinkConnector, we have seen advertisers reap exponential growth as a result of their Q4 performance marketing investments.

As CMO, I would ensure I was working with the right types of partners and channels with sufficient diversification and expertise to pivot their focus for maximum reach. I would have a meticulous plan for seasonal content and creatives, one that leverages historical insights on my audience, my Q4 shopper, to define these activities (while staying current on the evolution of my cosmetics/clothing consumer). Further, in the clothing/cosmetics vertical, I would safeguard against potential surprises coming into Q4 from my competition. I would be informed with competitive insights and trends to make sure I was entering the Q4 market hot.

I would also empower my partners with the marketing privileges, content and consumer insights to set them up—my external sales teams—for Q4 success.

I would have a comprehensive—and early— plan for promotions and competitive deals this time of year. This is essential. Sharing promotional dates (and, if possible, details) early with marketing partners and affiliates enables partners to sync their marketing efforts with my marketing calendar. This ensures everyone’s goals are aligned.

I would also tighten and optimize the nuts and bolts of my site’s infrastructure—is the website equipped to handle increased traffic? Is the site dialed-in for mobile shoppers? What is the strategy for shopping cart abandonment? Is the shopping experience seamless and cohesive—across channels and affiliates?

Does a merchant or an advertiser need a digital marketing/ad agency in addition to their normal affiliate network partner?

It really depends—mostly on the dedicated management resources the advertiser has both internally and from their network partner. If their network support is that of a basic, or self-managed account, and an experienced performance marketing stakeholder is lacking from within, the advertiser would certainly benefit from leveraging an agency’s experience and expertise.

If, however, the advertiser has more of a fully-managed or co-managed partnership with their network, depending on the network’s offered services, the advertiser should expect above and beyond support with guidance and execution to drive accelerated program growth—things like goal setting, KPI analysis, affiliate recruitment and expert industry knowledge to grow the program’s long-term revenues. Beyond activities like affiliate portfolio diversification, partner activation, seasonal creatives, optimization of links, if the advertiser has a managed account arrangement with the network, they should also expect more comprehensive marketing activities. This might include increasing brand awareness, content recommendations, and optimizing margins.

It’s smart for an advertiser to understand the network’s historical record and experience with their managed accounts. And, all this said, if budget allows, the best case scenario may be to engage both—an experienced agency for more long-haul strategy as well as leveraging the strengths of a network to drive revenue more near-term.

If they sometimes do need both, then where is the dividing line? How should a merchant aim to split the responsibilities?

The agency and network ideally would work closely together to align goals. The agency may work holistically with an advertiser, beyond the affiliate channel, to optimize all marketing activities for long-term growth. The network’s efforts would be focused around the affiliate channel, as it aligns with the advertiser’s overall marketing plan (e.g., new customer acquisition versus customer loyalty).

Many publishers struggle with data management and understanding how their own media buying flows through into affiliate commission. How much help should they expect from their network? 

While inexperienced publishers may be the ones who need help the most, often it is the publishers that have a proven track record of success that are assigned dedicated representation and support from the network.

This said, most networks offer at least baseline support for publishers. LinkConnector, as an example, has a dedicated Affiliate Relations (AR) team that is on deck for this purpose. While top earning partners may land a committed account representative, all publishers are able to get a demo of the interface or reporting, assistance reaching out to merchants, help getting integrated with product feeds or the API, performance marketing strategy ideas and more. In fact, our AR team members have long tenures (some over 10 years) with LinkConnector and intricately understand the questions and challenges publishers have.

Other good news is that many networks, agencies and industry forums offer free support and training tools to strengthen publishers’ knowledge base. In fact, so much so, that I would check the source and reputation of anyone offering counsel—our industry is full of gurus!

This interview was originally found on the mThink website here.

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