Affiliate Nerd Out

The Role of Coupons and Product Feeds in Affiliate with Brook Schaaf

October 18, 2023 Dustin Howes Season 1 Episode 33
The Role of Coupons and Product Feeds in Affiliate with Brook Schaaf
Affiliate Nerd Out
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Affiliate Nerd Out
The Role of Coupons and Product Feeds in Affiliate with Brook Schaaf
Oct 18, 2023 Season 1 Episode 33
Dustin Howes

Ready to get into the nitty-gritty of affiliate marketing? We've got industry veteran and the mastermind behind FNTC, Brook Schaaf, onboard to impart his vast knowledge and deep insights about the impact of product feeds on e-commerce. From his early days in the late 90s, Brook has been instrumental in streamlining customer experience and enhancing conversion rates using product feeds, and in this episode, he talks about how FNTC simplifies the process by offering a single API access point for product feeds. 

The conversation takes an interesting turn as Brook reveals strategies to promote new products and the role of coupons in attracting affiliates. Can you guess how these strategies can help to guard against click theft from coupon sites? Here's a hint: It involves a meticulous understanding of 'conquesting', a fresh approach to acquiring new customers. Also, he introduces a game-changing tool designed to revolutionize the recruitment of new affiliates. 

Drawing parallels between the revitalization of Detroit and the potential of affiliate marketing, we emphasize the need for more "boosters" in the affiliate industry to inspire growth. In the same way Detroit bounced back, the affiliate marketing industry needs dedicated resources and flexible strategies. If you're looking to amplify your affiliate marketing efforts, Brook's insights are a treasure chest of knowledge. From the importance of product feeds to the potential of coupons and affiliate recruitment, this episode is a must-listen for anyone vested in the industry.

Publisher out there, go check out their easy javascript functions on WordPress sites. It works like magic to add up to date CTAs within your blog posts. Go see it for yourself at dustinhowes.com/acom

This is a tool all publishers out there need to be utilizing, go to dustinhowes.com/nuc for a 1-month free trial and a demo of the product. Please use my link to enable my content making addition. Dustinhowes.com/nuc

For more tips on how to scale your affiliate program, check out https://performancemarketingmanager.com

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Ready to get into the nitty-gritty of affiliate marketing? We've got industry veteran and the mastermind behind FNTC, Brook Schaaf, onboard to impart his vast knowledge and deep insights about the impact of product feeds on e-commerce. From his early days in the late 90s, Brook has been instrumental in streamlining customer experience and enhancing conversion rates using product feeds, and in this episode, he talks about how FNTC simplifies the process by offering a single API access point for product feeds. 

The conversation takes an interesting turn as Brook reveals strategies to promote new products and the role of coupons in attracting affiliates. Can you guess how these strategies can help to guard against click theft from coupon sites? Here's a hint: It involves a meticulous understanding of 'conquesting', a fresh approach to acquiring new customers. Also, he introduces a game-changing tool designed to revolutionize the recruitment of new affiliates. 

Drawing parallels between the revitalization of Detroit and the potential of affiliate marketing, we emphasize the need for more "boosters" in the affiliate industry to inspire growth. In the same way Detroit bounced back, the affiliate marketing industry needs dedicated resources and flexible strategies. If you're looking to amplify your affiliate marketing efforts, Brook's insights are a treasure chest of knowledge. From the importance of product feeds to the potential of coupons and affiliate recruitment, this episode is a must-listen for anyone vested in the industry.

Publisher out there, go check out their easy javascript functions on WordPress sites. It works like magic to add up to date CTAs within your blog posts. Go see it for yourself at dustinhowes.com/acom

This is a tool all publishers out there need to be utilizing, go to dustinhowes.com/nuc for a 1-month free trial and a demo of the product. Please use my link to enable my content making addition. Dustinhowes.com/nuc

For more tips on how to scale your affiliate program, check out https://performancemarketingmanager.com

Dustin Howes:

Hey folks, welcome to Affiliate Nerd out. I am your Nerdirator, Dustin Howe. Sprint that good word about affiliate marketing. You're gonna find me every Tuesday and Thursday at 12.15 Pacific time here on LinkedIn Live, so market on your calendars, stop by or get us on any podcast venue that you have and subscribe my guest today, Brook Shoff, legend in this industry, CEO and founder of For Me To Coupon FMTC. Welcome, Brook to the Nerditorium.

Brook Schaaf:

Dustin, thank you for having me.

Dustin Howes:

We go way back, man. You were very instrumental in my early part of my career and you've continued to be a mentor through the years. Every time I get to see you, we hang out for a little bit at Affiliate Summit and you always have that really wise nugget. Take home that I get from every conference every time I get to talk to you, and I love that about you.

Brook Schaaf:

Well, thank you. It's great to see your beautiful face and you are a machine for doing this twice a week. I'm impressed.

Dustin Howes:

It's a tough one. It is a tough route to go down, but I have so many guests pounding on the door trying to get in and nerd out with me that I welcome it and embrace it with open arms and I'm so glad that you could join me today. So my guest today, Brook Shoff. You can get a link to him in the live version. I'll put it in the chat here. We are doing live Q&A today, so if you wanna come by and tell Brook how great his hair is looking, he got a fresh haircut today just for this episode.

Brook Schaaf:

And I couldn't come on unless I got one.

Dustin Howes:

Yeah, you know me, I am a strict haircut before podcast personality so Brook. Without further ado, who are you?

Brook Schaaf:

So, vis-a-vis affiliate marketing, I am an old timer. I got my start in 2000 at a very young Zapposcom, right out of college. I took to affiliate marketing like a duck to water In-house for Zappos' competitor, shoescom, which was a real education, somewhat painful, and then for the car research company Edmondscom. My brother Forest and I later started an agency and co-founded FNTC. The agency was in 2006, I guess, and FNTC the very end of 2007. And so my whole career has pretty much been in affiliate marketing.

Dustin Howes:

Fantastic and that was a very quick summary of the last 20 years of your life here in this industry. Really impressive work that you've done. You've bought and sold and moved on from many different companies and today you're focusing on for me to coupon. If you want more about Brook, you can find his profile in the chat down here. If you want to be in Brook's seat, come be my guest, Go to dustinhowes. com and let me slash nerd and let me know what you want to nerd out about Brook. So tell me what you're doing right now and who you're servicing.

Brook Schaaf:

So I am full-time with FNTC. I used to own an agency that was sold over six years ago. Glad not to be in the agency game anymore, much more competitive than it used to be, but for that it's a great space, a lot of opportunity, a lot of really great players in it. Fntc is a specialty company in the affiliate space. We're in that very rare position of vendor.

Brook Schaaf:

Our primary customer is actually the enterprise affiliate, in particular coupon reward. And then we also serve as some of the commerce content guys. We are integrated with about 20,000 merchants across all the major networks, slash and tracking platforms in the English-speaking markets around the world, and so we are a critical hub for delivery of link content, including deal. So if it's anything coupon category, sale, you name it in product feeds in the affiliate space.

Dustin Howes:

Beautiful and it's exactly why I wanted to have you on. I don't know enough about your company and what you're doing, but I hear nothing but good things out there in the industry and I want to learn more about what FMTC does for both merchants and affiliates out there, and we're going to get into that a little bit later here, but before we do, I'd love some education on product feeds. You seem to be one of those guys that have been in this industry so long and know this field very well. Can you tell the crowd here what product feeds are and why they're important to the affiliate ecosystem?

Brook Schaaf:

Yeah, great question, great topic. Product feeds have been around since maybe not as long as affiliate marketing's been around. Cbd's been around since the old CDNOW program which predated Amazon, but at least since the late 90s, and I would argue that now as then, that they are underutilized, so short. You know, product feed is basically, even though it's distributed by API, typically a CSV or flat file with, you know, the product name, the product brand, the product picture, the product by URL, which of course is an affiliate link, and so you can integrate these and then distribute them. And the idea is that if you give a deep link to a product, the conversion rate is going to be higher. It's an easier, smoother user experience.

Brook Schaaf:

So, for example, if you're on consumer reports, which just got written up in an article I was reading this week, and you say, hey, here's the best vacuum cleaner to buy, they do what they call sort of like link safety to get the customer to that exact product. You know Wirecutter does something very similar, as do many other players out there. A lot of coupon and reward sites also integrate these product feeds. But, as mentioned, I think that not enough sites fully integrate product feeds the way that they should. Okay, and that's something that FNPC is hoping to help out with by creating a single API access point for the product feeds from the networks. So they're all affiliate links. They're cleaned up a bit because they're messy from the merchants and then the affiliates can more easily offer more link choices to their users.

Dustin Howes:

Excellent, excellent, great representation of what that is Now. Traditionally, these are more for e-com merchants that have a lot of products and they need to get more exposure on the internet and give easier access to the affiliate partners out there. Does this work with SaaS products as well? I've created product feeds, also known as ZataFeeds, sometimes for SaaS products that have a few different SKUs, but it isn't such a necessary use case in that scenario, Right?

Brook Schaaf:

Yeah, I think the case forward is it can be relatively easy to create those product feeds and you're getting more attention for it.

Brook Schaaf:

So the same way that you live stream this on LinkedIn and then you format it later as a podcast. It could also turn into a transcript. If you can pop into somebody's feed, into somebody's like data stream in two ways, it's probably better than doing it one way. Now, the core way to do it would surely be text links. The most critical thing affiliate marketing, for sure. But if you say, hey, we've got a product feed even though we have a low SKU count, what's the harm going to be? You should be able to create that in an automated fashion with your back end. I think that's good. Hustling on the part of the affiliate manager, great. And there's a good chance that you're going to find some affiliate out there who's going to make use of that information. Not everybody can. Some are more sophisticated than others, some are more hands-on than others, and so they can take that, use the updated link changes, make the pricing changes. Maybe there was now price when it burst on sale. That all has a potential to be useful to some affiliate out there.

Dustin Howes:

Great points. And what about the cadence of a product feed? How often should you be updating this?

Brook Schaaf:

Oh boy, I mean, look, the de facto thing in a network is going to be once a day, really Okay, yeah, Even though with a massive power of product feed it can take hours to pull. So I would suggest that they buy by that and then the merchant give as much information as possible. I think that this is a I know we're going to kind of get to future affiliate stuff in the future. I think that's and I was actually just talking to a prospect about this yesterday.

Brook Schaaf:

I don't think an ideal way has yet been discovered. It might ideally be like sort of like a ping post system for like an individual product to get the in stock, sizing and pricing information. The challenge is that from a logistical perspective that's difficult to set up and it can be a server burden on the merchant who might be dealing with like a lot of fake clicks or spam or something like that. You know, not to mention kind of like competitive concerns. So product feeds are actually much more involved than they seem. But the 80-20 thing is figure product feed out there at least once a day. Not everybody does that, and then it'll be pretty helpful to some affiliates because they'll kind of like digest that over the course of the day. That's the standard that we see for when we pull the stuff.

Dustin Howes:

Okay, got you. If anybody has any questions about product feeds out there, drop them in the chat. Are you using them? I want to see comments too. Is anybody using product feeds and it's anybody using them in a traditional or non-traditional way? I want to hear some feedback from the crowd that's out there like this. So let's switch gears a little bit and talk about coupons.

Dustin Howes:

So you and I have polarizing views on the necessity of coupon and loyalty sites. I have been historically against bringing in coupon and loyalty sites into affiliate programs and focusing on content site, and you are, on the other hand, you have built this business around it and you are supporting them in a very high fashion. And I've always seen coupons kind of like cheese this is a weird analogy, I know, but like hot cheese, melted cheese, delicious, like Velveeta and nachos and like fondue pots delicious. And then you got cold cheese over here Great, delicious as well. It's on cold cuts, it's on sandwiches, you're great. But in the middle, here is cheese that's been hanging out in the sun for the day. It's got little sweats, it's disgusting, and nobody is there. Nobody wants that cheese. And I feel like it's the same in the coupon industry, like you're against it or you're for it. Like why is there such polarization in coupons right now?

Brook Schaaf:

Boy Dustin, that's a doozy. That's a doozy. I'll have to think about that one. But I agree with it sort of being polarizing and I think your audience should know that your secret should be revealed, that Dustin secretly loves coupons. Dustin actually has an outfit made out of paper coupons that he wears in the dark of night.

Dustin Howes:

I am no superhero. No, sir, I do not have a hidden coupon site. Wouldn't that be just like the nastiest rumored, just like Dustin's got a coupon.

Brook Schaaf:

No, no, I mean, like a suit, the people I do stitch together.

Dustin Howes:

No, sir, I have a lot of exotic wardrobe, but coupon suit is not in there yet. Let's hold it for the future, though. I've got a comment real quick Before you answer it. I'll let you think about that there, Brooke. Susan says we're using product feeds on our app Marketplace. Alana enabled Great. Hey, thanks for jumping in. Susan. Appreciate you App Marketplace. Tell us about apps in Marketplace there, brooke. Where would people be putting their product feeds in an app or a Marketplace? Well, I'm not sure what Alana enabled means.

Brook Schaaf:

I'm not sure if that's a coding term or something I've never heard of it before but if you're in an app like a Shopify situation, I imagine there's probably a plug-in you can do. And you want to keep in mind too that the product feed stuff there's one form of distribution that's going to be to your affiliates and then another would be the Marketplace thing. We're using a company to get them to Amazon and now maybe TikTok shop or something like that, and so that's an ever-evolving frontier of distribution. But the affiliate space is specific because you're drawing them with product feed back to your site for the conversion, and doing that is, I would argue it's like proper affiliate program hygiene. If you recently have products you're selling, you should be getting the product feed out there and making it accessible to your affiliates.

Dustin Howes:

Absolutely, and that's the quickest way to get traction on your new products and get it to your affiliate partners so that they can start writing reviews and link to it quickly. Great call there, all right. So back into this coupon strategy. Why should it be a part of your affiliate program? Brooke, tell me your side of the story, why coupons are a necessary part.

Brook Schaaf:

So a lot to say here. This is actually a very, very big topic and I've been listening to some of your smear content recently as podcasts and a few other people to, and reading a lot of articles, and the main takeaway of it are actually my position would really be to say first, affiliate programs are a lot of work. It's a lot of work to manage affiliate programs and I think a lot of that work is going to go into sort of the couponing and discounting strategy. Now, if you are a retailer or just about any kind of commerce conductor on the internet, you're selling info products, you're selling software, you're selling something else, you're probably going to have without your separate, totally from your affiliate program some kind of discounting strategy. You're going to have a new customer discount, you're going to send out stuff by email, you're going to have a clearance sale at the end of the season, there might be some manufacturing rebates, there might be co-op dollars and on and on and on. And the argument that I would make is that for the affiliate program, you should be, if not posting custom offers into the affiliate program, at least mirroring what you have on your site, and the reason for that is because your affiliates have the potential to get new eyeballs and new clicks, new customers, to your site, and you're going to want to entice them to come to your site in some particular way.

Brook Schaaf:

I can't tell you how many merchants we have with affiliate programs that do not update their coupon content regularly enough. They have sort of a sad, what we call evergreen deal that's out there. We have to go back and check it periodically because it might expire from one month to the next and if a customer is sort of shopping around they say you versus a competitor and the competitor has a better deal or any kind of deal on the affiliate site, they're probably going to the competitor or absent that deal on the affiliate site. Frankly, they might just go to Amazon, right, because most active shoppers are probably Amazon Prime members. And if you want, I can also dip into sort of like the case against coupons or, if you prefer to give that, we can kind of go back and forth a little bit more.

Dustin Howes:

Well, I could handle that side. My biggest thing and biggest theory, of course, is coupon sites are stealing that last click from the content sites that I really want to help and assist and make them money. And those are the guys that are bringing in that top of the funnel type of clientele that the brands I'm working with really want for sales and the lifetime value of those customers is really great. And the coupon site last clicks coming from them and getting that last click deal really steals away the commission portion from that content affiliate. And I just hate that and I've through the years put in place in my affiliate programs a leapfrog technology where you don't credit the coupon site that got the last click and the last 10 minutes of the funnel, of that sales funnel, and credited the one affiliate that came before that that had the previous click.

Dustin Howes:

So there's ways about combating it, but that's always been my strategy behind it. But I'm never. Anything I ever do is never in stone. I'm always open to interpretation, I'm always open to hear the other side. So what say you, brooke? Why should you be putting a coupon strategy in place?

Brook Schaaf:

Yeah, in short, if you don't have a coupon strategy, you're going to be leaving money on the table. As a merchant, as a retailer, I think there's absolutely nothing wrong with the case that you're making. It is important to remember that we deal with a lot of uncertainties. Probably no merchant has a 0% card abandonment rate and oftentimes, when people go out and they find that coupon, they come back and they convert and they wouldn't have. So, in theory, it's a numbers game and you need to do the A-B testing and that's where it comes back to being a lot of work.

Brook Schaaf:

You have to look closely at your analytics and, to your point with tracking platforms. Today, those analytics are very much there, and the rules-based commissions are very much there, and so I would go so far as to say that anybody who hasn't really kind of like grappled with this is basically being a little bit lazy with their program. Now, it could be that you dive into the numbers, you swim through them, you come to have a Zenlike comprehension of them and you say, hey, we're not going to work with coupon sites or only select coupon sites, and that's fine. There's going to be some person who's in a position to control a decision making on behalf of the merchant. Maybe that's the agency, maybe it's an executive within the merchant, maybe it's a committee of people. Whatever the case, somebody should be doing an analytical analysis that sort of meshes with what their brand philosophy is. But I will say this just about everybody has some form of discounting, so Apple kind of considered a luxury brand.

Brook Schaaf:

They basically cash back at certain times of the year, like Black Friday, buy this, get a gift card for this. It's not thought of as exactly a coupon, but it's a customer incentive and so you want that customer incentive to get out there and these brands will advertise these things on television, print et cetera, because what deal is an offer if it doesn't get out there? The behavior that people are worried about with this sort of like would have purchased anyway is a totally understandable concern, but the merchant has more control than in any other channel to resolve this. So, as you mentioned, there's leap product technology. You can disqualify certain things, you can make a coupon code only credits to a certain partner. You can reduce the commissions for certain partners. You can offer new customer bonuses. You can make the discount only applicable to a first responder or to the new customer or to certain products. So many, many, many levers of control. It's really your job as the retailer or the agent acting up half the retailer, to push and pull these levers to get to an optimal position. And something that this is a slightly different topic that I would add in is I think overall the affiliate commission rates are really lower than they should be vis-a-vis channels.

Brook Schaaf:

If you look at the ROAS for Facebook or Google, ads, kind of programmatic buys, a lot of other channels, including sort of CPC stuff that retailers do, the cost as a percentage of the revenue is much higher and it's also often sort of subsidized by, for example, like trademark terms For sure, maybe like this emerging sort of like retail media dollars, whereas kind of like this captive customer who's like very close to the purchase and affiliate is under more scrutiny from an ROI perspective than, I would argue, probably any of the channel on average. And it's fine because affiliate can withstand that scrutiny. But at the same time it's not quite like an apples to apples comparison, especially when you consider that if you're paying for like a click or like an impression, you're paying for that regardless of what happens after somebody gets to your site. On affiliates, you're potentially paying for a conversion, but if the user converts on a different device or outside of the time window or something else, it is very easily lost and so affiliates kind of get the short end of the stick there. And the reason I mentioned that in this context because the merchants are basically worried about overpaying right.

Brook Schaaf:

It's important to note these are not fraudulent transactions. The coupon purchases like. They're not like fake leaks. The coupon purchases are legit orders from legit customers. Maybe they're higher quality customers, maybe they're lower, and the the stats tend to correlate with. I mean, actually everybody. Everybody uses coupons, like higher household incomes, low household incomes, but the higher household incomes tend to be very savvy buyers For sure.

Brook Schaaf:

And so you are just really worried about paying too much as the retailer and that's a totally understandable consideration, that you've got to negotiate and set the terms up correctly and so on and so forth, but you're probably only you're not paying out 100% of the transactions that affiliate has touched realistically, whether it's content affiliate or coupon affiliate or reward affiliate or any other kind of affiliate.

Brook Schaaf:

And so what I'm saying is there's the, there's like this super scrutiny on the one side that's like kind of there, but then there's actually it's not being set off in consideration was sort of like this.

Brook Schaaf:

It's almost like extra margin that the the marketer gets and that does close sometimes. For example, like the commerce content guys especially, but also the coupon and the reward guys are very good at getting paid placements at least a certain time of year, or sometimes increased commissions and things like that, and then I think you get closer to where the commission like really should be. So I think that most affiliate marketers, like on the management side, don't use the full sort of like feature set that they really should be using for rewarding those commissions and they don't actually transmit enough data back to the affiliates either. And so I know that's getting away from the sort of like the coupon controversy which, by the way, I don't mean to discount like it's really important for the merchants dial that into their comfort level. But it is part of like this much bigger picture that relates back to, you know, basically our rich and our man.

Dustin Howes:

You touched on so many incredible points there and I wanted to go back like eight different times to like elaborate on a few of those, but I'll try to remember what I could. But one of the first things luxury brands like I hate that term of of brands calling themselves luxury brands and they're not going to have coupons within their strategy at all. They just don't offer them. Things like companies like Apple are notorious for this and like maybe the hardest clients I've ever taken on from the agency perspective are the ones that are in luxury spot. Now, not, it's not like I have a need to have coupons, but like it's nice to have it there If there's an opportunity. Like being hard pressed against the coupons in general, I feel like it's a bad stance. But what do you say to luxury brands? How do you combat that? I mean and talk them into like at least loosening the belt a little bit?

Brook Schaaf:

Yeah, so we should actually segment the coupon sites into kind of like, I guess, maybe not like A and B buckets, but sort of like a scale. And so one thing that's also worth noting and we did a webinar with James Little from Top Cash Back in the UK brought this up this is a problem that I think is actually under kind of like under discussed, maybe because there's not a good solution for it. But, like you know, some coupon sites do just totally post not whole stone stuff but like whole clock, totally fake stuff. And this has even happened FDC, which is ridiculous because you know, like a SAS comes in and so that is a real aggravation, again without a good solution, because a lot of merchants can just dump those affiliates, but like that bad content stays up and it creates actually bad user system. It's kind of like a tragedy of the commons. That sort of like honestly is toxic for our ecosystem. There's a small number of bad apples there and then all the and, by the way you know those are guys, are not the everything FDC sends is valid data, certainly at the time of us sending it. And then you have everybody you can kind of like work with and some of them act naughty sometimes, which can of course be a real aggravation, but they're generally like partners that you can, you know, kind of like, kind of like work with.

Brook Schaaf:

And so with that latter group, which is the majority of coupon sites, if you have the luxury brand for example, what I would honestly do is just point them to Amazon. So Amazon, interestingly, does not work with reward sites, which tend to be the favorite sites in the coupon ecosystem and I tend to favor, I go out of my way to shop on reward sites if I can. But Amazon generally does work with coupon sites, even though there's not likes for like, the same content distribution, in part because there's some marketplace sellers and they can operate their own coupons. But Amazon, you know, is very much by the numbers company. They're not doing anything. I'm the goodness of their, their own hearts, right, and so if they have looked at their numbers over these many years and determine that, like this is the way to go, I would take a cue from them and say, hey, maybe they know something that we don't and I've talked to actually many sort of like an executive coupon site who's made that exactly that argument, like sort of like some of the bigger box guys who like to cut down their commissions, and I honestly think there's a day of reckoning coming and that day of reckoning is going to be these.

Brook Schaaf:

These sites are going to get more aggressive with what's called conquesting, where somebody searches for X but they say, hey, listen, here's another merchant that sells the exact same thing and they have cashback for you or they have like a first time user coupon Because you know there's. You know, sometimes it's like look, I need this one thing I got to get from this one merchant because of whatever reason, and I'm going to buy it. You know, I'll look for a coupon, I'll still buy it, even if there's not one. Other times I want this thing. Maybe I'll buy it if I find a deal, maybe I won't, and then you'll. Sometimes it'll be like look, I need this thing, but a million people sell it. I'm going to buy it from whoever's.

Brook Schaaf:

Going to be like give me the best terms and that is a fantastic opportunity for a merchant to win a new customer, and that's what that's exactly where I think a lot of these, these merchants, aren't posting enough to the affiliate network. So, for example, you know, we we add 100 or 200 merchants every week at FNTC and we often find that there's a coupon, like it's a standard Shopify play, like you win, it's like 10% discount for a new customer however they define the customer, if it's a new file address or email or whatever, but that discount is not posted to their affiliate program. How are people supposed to know about that discount? And why would you not work as hard as you can to win new customers? If you're a Shopify merchant nobody has ever heard of and you're trying to get more business to your Shopify store than to the marketplaces you're on, I mean to me it's crazy, For sure. I mean there's.

Dustin Howes:

There's a ton of opportunity out there that people are missing out on. I have Rakuten and Honey as in my toolbar and every time I'm going shopping I will see drop downs like hey, you can get this cheaper over at Walmart. If you want to go check it out over here, just click right here and it's very quick and it's really aggressive. But I understand like this evolution. As a consumer, I'm going to want to see that, and if you are a merchant out there and you're not utilizing this kind of strategy, you are missing out on some sales there. So there's some great opportunity and I would love to dig in a little bit more on that. We're going to switch topics here and shoot up our sponsor of the day, and our sponsor of the day has nothing to do with coupons. It has something to do with finding new affiliates.

Dustin Howes:

This is my favorite new tool right now. This is Respona affiliate recruitment and a CRM system Just an incredible tool. Like I, have been such a nerd with recruitment tools in the past using media rails and even five IQ back in the day and some others throughout time, especially when I was working with Grovia and Respona has got it all together. I was really impressed by their tool and I've been using it with a couple of different clients as of late. Go to dustinhowes. com, slash R E S and go check it out for yourself. You can have the freemium version of it and it's really affordable if you're out there like creating an agency and looking to recruit more affiliates. Super powerful tool. Go check it out today. All right, let's switch gears. I want to hear more about your company, fmtc. Where does this name come from? First of all, broke, I want you to defend it.

Brook Schaaf:

So the name was actually the brainchild of my brother Forest.

Dustin Howes:

Okay.

Brook Schaaf:

We thought the old Conan O'Brien Skate with Triumph the Wonder Dog was hilarious and even at that time there were not too many coupon domain names available, so we threw that out there and it stuck, so to speak, and we are better known now as FFPC. You know, we've been around so long in the space. We say sometimes it really means for me to compete because we want to really enable more affiliate marketers to do more business with less friction. That is very much the direction of our product roadmap. But we just normally go by FMTC and our domain is FMTCco.

Dustin Howes:

Oh, perfect, all right, and tell us about the product. What do you guys do and what are your main functions here?

Brook Schaaf:

Yes, our core product is the deal feed and the product feed. There are two separate products which we sell to enterprise affiliates and that's an API call. You can come get all the latest deals, all the latest products, multiple times a day. That has been around since the I guess the very end of 2007 when we got started, maybe early in 2008. We're actually rebuilding some of that core functionality right now which we're very pleased with, we're really looking forward to.

Brook Schaaf:

Also on the affiliate side, we have something called Publisher Toolkit and we have a freemium offering too, so you can log in and get access to our directory, which has really solid data on all the merchant programs.

Brook Schaaf:

You can search for merchants by category, see which network they're on, see the agency managing them, et cetera, and with that for the publishers, we also have a sub-affiliate network called FreshReach, and what FreshReach is is the ability to get a link If you're not joined to a network or a certain merchant. This is all by permission, so we say, hey, here's all the merchants that allow for sub-affiliate links, which is about half of our merchants, so ballpark sort of like 9,000-ish active ones. We have a lot of inactive merchants. We also keep tabs on that and you can give your API to credentials to us and we'll automatically log in, give you the status of the merchants, grab all the deals from the merchants you're joined to, et cetera, et cetera, and then if you want a link for a merchant you're not joined to and you have permission to get access to it, we can send that link over to you. So it's a really great speed to market and a long-tail strategy.

Dustin Howes:

Okay, and what was that name again? Freshfelial, freshreach, freshreach, excuse me. Okay, we'll drop a link in the chat here shortly. So tell me more about FTC. Let's talk about the affiliate side. How are you out there helping affiliates, publishers, succeed?

Brook Schaaf:

Yeah, so the key is we help everybody in the ecosystem succeed. So if you're a merchant and you have this content, we go in, we grab the content, we're the rails that gets it on the affiliate page so we can get to the customer eyeballs. You have the affiliate website or their app or whatnot. And for the merchants we also have some promotional programs too, so we can expedite your deal processing. We can get you sort of the impressions for your program because you're in a pretty competitive environment to promote your programming with others and help give your program a boost. So it's getting out two more affiliates.

Dustin Howes:

Okay, got you. And on the merchant side of the equation, why should merchants be utilizing your guys' tool?

Brook Schaaf:

So if you're a merchant and you have an affiliate program and you're not using FTC, then your links are not getting up to certain affiliates. It's as simple as that.

Dustin Howes:

Okay, good to go. So you're just giving yourself, as a merchant, an additional opportunity to get more exposure to affiliates that are out there utilizing the tool from the publisher side. And is there a cost associated with being a merchant or being an affiliate here?

Brook Schaaf:

There is a cost associated with being an affiliate. That's our core product. Again, you can access our directory for free, which a lot of people use for research, and then, if you pay, you get access to more from the directory. You get access to our browser extension, which is not just to be clear, it's not like a honey, it's a B2B browser extension. And I think we're surfing around and I'm like oh hey, I'm on this website, is this a merchant? Oh yeah, it's a merchant. Great, I can see where the program is, the agency managing them, I can create a link, I can see some deal samples, that kind of thing. And then our API deal feeds are the core functionality. With those pull-in, they get populated on the sites. We also can do custom deal rewriting for SEO purposes and we also can do ASA in matching so you can find the merchants that sell like the same products that are available for sale on Amazon. So we have some sort of smaller site offerings there too.

Dustin Howes:

So it's free for the merchants?

Brook Schaaf:

Yes, there's a paid service, but most merchants work with us for free. We join your program for free. We pull your data feed for free, your product feed, we pull your deal feed for free.

Dustin Howes:

That seems like a good deal. So for merchants out there that are considering using this, what would be their best strategy? Do you need to have a couple of different coupons to put on this to test the reach of FFDC?

Brook Schaaf:

So look, it's for every individual merchant. But again, if you're posting stuff on your site, basically publicly, that people are going to see when they're landing your site anyway, you're crazy not to be giving that stuff to your affiliates for my two cents and I would argue you should be doing a basket of coupons. So free shipping offers are very popular Was now. Offers on individual products are very popular. That can appear in both the product feed and you could add those as text links. So a few of those are always going to be good. I would say it's good to have a new customer discount. We also have a partnership with Sheer ID which does the verification for things like first responders and teachers. So if you say, hey, we have a 10% discount for teachers, they'll say, hey, this person who's on your site is legit a teacher and we tag those deals separately.

Brook Schaaf:

I would also suggest a lot of retailers consider a very high basket coupon, say, hey, you can get 50 bucks off.

Brook Schaaf:

We don't like to discount, but we'll give you this discount if you buy $250 for the stuff or $500 for the stuff. The thought is that I think it really helps the decision making process of the user. It potentially also helps wear down there Willpower a little bit if they're like, hey, can I use one of these deals? Well, I don't want to spend that much money, but I can use this free shipping if I spend less, if I hit like a $50 basket or $75 basket. So I'm going to do that, and so I think it's a really great way to engage with the user, to anticipate certain concerns that they have and to win yourself a customer or to win yourself a current business, because you can't take either for granted. So my approach is very much to create like a basket and then to update that basket frequently. It doesn't have to be every day, it could be every day, but it should at least be every month. And then the more vanity codes and custom tracking codes that you can give, the better.

Dustin Howes:

Fantastic. All right, Loud and clear. If you're still watching this episode and you're in the chat, jump in and tell me how you're utilizing FMTC. Tell Brooks hi here Now. It's a segment called Defend your Post Time here, Brooke. Now I just dug in. I played real nice today and I dug into something he posted just a few days ago. The affiliate marketing channel might take some inspiration from boosterism in other areas and the headline is affiliate might be more like Detroit. Now, Detroit is traditionally perhaps one of the worst cities in the United States, like as far as as poverty goes and as far as other aspects of it, like sports teams, for example, like. Why would you assume that affiliate is like Detroit? Why would affiliate want to be associated with that kind of connotation?

Brook Schaaf:

Damn sports teams. Why I think the Lions are off to a pretty decent start.

Dustin Howes:

Okay, hey, one in every 60 years, hurray.

Brook Schaaf:

Yeah. So you know, this is kind of a personal one for me because not super personal, but my dad actually grew up in a world where he's a great player Awesome, yeah, he said he used to call it the city majestic and you know, fable for the big three automakers. And then you had Motown, which was, I mean, amazing. It was like a music factory. Actually, what about tour of Motown? In fact, on our tour there was a Motown singer and her son, who was a singer, the son of one of the Temptations, which is pretty kind of a cool moment of serendipity. And so, yeah, first a little bit more about Detroit. So you know, it had auto makers, had a lot of money, it had the big, it had Motown, and then you had a lot of racial tensions, you had all these rights in the 60s and it went on this long, slow downward spiral. You know, I think like Robocop, I think is the 35th anniversary coming up here soon, they're planning, they're planning a statue and Detroit was like you know, the picture of like urban light, decay, crime, you know the like probably had the worst reputation as an American city. And the reason I thought that affiliate marketing might be more like Detroit is because for some decades now Detroit has had a lot of real boosters and one of the people on stage I think it was either Dan Illich, you know, who owns like a little, his family owns like little Caesars, or it might have been the president of Penske was saying that look, you know, you can make calls. Anybody will take your call in Detroit and everybody works. They put in money, they put in time to work on cleaning up Detroit.

Brook Schaaf:

And Detroit downtown now is a little bit odd. It's a little bit eerie. Actually it has a slightly hitchcock effect because there's a lot of open spaces amidst the buildings. Open spaces are clean, but I think they used to be where buildings were, the buildings that were down, and so there's sort of like this oddly open feel for like a downtown area. But again, downtown is clean. It's very nice. There's really cool restaurants to go to, there's pockets of like a lot of urban stuff, they have great museums, they have a riverfront etc. So I would, without any irony, I would say Detroit totally worth visit. There's still homelessness and stuff and kind of like the mid city, but parks, you know, couldn't it wouldn't have gone into even like 10 years ago. You can totally go through now and really like it yourself and everybody is like pulling for the city.

Brook Schaaf:

Okay, now it's not a perfect comparison to affiliate because it's not like affiliate had some heyday and then you like fell into this period of flight. But I think that affiliate people, there's not enough boosterism in affiliate as there should be in our channel. There's, you know, other stuff we didn't touch on which are fair criticism of affiliates, but we don't tout the great things about affiliate enough and I don't mean that like within the channel, I mean like to those outside the channel. I was talking to somebody. One of the people wants to say my need to say his name, but he was saying like look, you know, if you look at programmatic advertising online, it just doesn't drive people the way that like a TV ad. Might you know? Tv ad can be very emotional, like the music, you know.

Brook Schaaf:

You know, whatever you remember a commercial years, even decades later in your life, it can really put a brand on the map. You know how many banner ads that you see? Do you even remember? You know? I mean, what's the last banner I remember? Right? But banner ads in the US are, I've seen different numbers. It's usually sort of like 80, 90 billion give or take and affiliate, you know, maybe 12 billion in the US market in a year.

Brook Schaaf:

And why should affiliate be such a fraction when I think there's so much more value there and affiliate is also so much more flexible, like there's really just a lot going for it. And so I think that we collectively, as a channel, should really work together to sort of argue in favor of affiliate, to sort of like the decision makers that go outside of affiliate, like advertising executives etc. By saying like, look, pound for pound, affiliate is probably the strongest channel maybe not, like you know, after, like your company newsletter, I've seen a lot of reports that has the most positive ROI because there's so many different ways you can engage. You have so much control. If you're the merchant, if you're the other side, if you're the affiliate, there's so many players that you can engage with and you can make money. You can form like, you can improve sort of like the, you can build a business around it. You can get all these great relationships out of it. And so I think that if we play our cards right, we can significantly increase the size of affiliate.

Brook Schaaf:

But in order to do that we have to have the dollars going in. You know, that means the commissions, that means the technical resources, that means going back to what we're saying at the start of this LinkedIn Live like, people have to do the work. It's not just like figuring out your coupon basket. It's, you know, tweaking your product feed. It's using a company like Responsa to go out and do that work. It's a lot of work, like it's. It can be very tedious, it's, or it can be like a real grind, but that's the work that you have to do in order to make it happen. I think that one of the things that actually hold affiliate back is you know, one thing is all the friction and another is that it's just so much more work than all this command and control channel.

Brook Schaaf:

So yeah, in the sense of like being more like, detroit is like. The leaders of affiliate marketing should come together and say, hey, what's good for affiliate marketing, what can we do? How can we promote affiliate marketing to the wider outside world?

Dustin Howes:

Oh my gosh, Only you could make that spin in that kind of fashion. That was amazing. Like I love that story. I didn't realize I was going to offend you in your history of your family but you took it, you know, like a champion and spun it around. And now I'm convinced, Like I want to go visit Detroit, Like last time I went there.

Dustin Howes:

I went to a Tigers game at Old Tiger Stadium and it was a really incredible historic event for me because I was like 17, 18 years old and I really remember that stadium and it got torn down the next year. So I have a good memory about Detroit but, like the history of it and that just makes a lot of sense with what she's saying I love that story and I think you're doing incredible work for to be that evangelist for affiliate and help it boost up through the years. That's all I've known from you as you being on stage and spreading that good word, and it's made me want to do the same and so I've been following in your footsteps so it's whole time and trying to follow you. So appreciate everything you've done in this industry, man.

Brook Schaaf:

Well, right back at you.

Dustin Howes:

Appreciate you. All right, we've got to wrap up. We're already at time. But before I get there, give me a one minute segment. What's in the affiliate future? What does it hold? Give me a quick clip of what you see as a trend coming up.

Brook Schaaf:

So I posted a board last year and I called it domination, and it was a play on words for the domain object model, the idea that anybody who controls the domain object model can turn anything that's commercially relevant link into an affiliate link. And so in some ways I think we're only beginning to scratch the surface, because if you're sending somebody a link that's commercially relevant, you're in some sense providing value to them, and that value, you know, maybe it shouldn't be compensated, but it probably could be and probably should be in most contexts. And so I think that we are going to see a sort of like this exciting burgeoning of additional affiliate activity. You know the commerce content space continues to explode. People love that kind of content. It's obviously commercially relevant. The coupon and the reward sites are still going strong and I think that you're going to see affiliate work its way into sort of all sorts of other spaces, because the taboo is against it have largely fallen away.

Brook Schaaf:

I think commerce content was, was a huge milestone there, and you know it didn't exactly happen on a certain date. But the technology is there to turn a lot more of these links into monetized links. It's great because it supports creators, potentially off in a very like low friction way it can be done with fantastic transparency. So you know, end to end, this affiliate is a fantastic solution and I think, on a global basis, we are going to see way more affiliates. So I think, I think we have exciting times ahead.

Dustin Howes:

Well said, love it. Lesson of my day here, a quick segment, is don't discount your opinions on the possibility of adding in coupons into your, into your strategy, and for me, to coupon is a great tool for any merchant to be out there utilizing to add some additional sales in there. Lastly, how do we connect with you here, brooke?

Brook Schaaf:

Yeah, find me on LinkedIn. Thanks for throwing out my LinkedIn. That is the best way and is FMDCco.

Dustin Howes:

Fantastic. All right, as we wrap up here, thursday 1215, you're going to find tied to Grange over here from round barn and hanging out and nerdy. Now, if you would like my affiliate program checklist, go to Dustin howescom slash checklist or go to this QR code. I've got a couple of downloads today. Thank you for joining me and, brooke, I'm signing off. This is Dustin Howes. Keep on recruiting folks, we'll see you out there.

Importance of Product Feeds in Affiliate Marketing
Coupon Importance in Affiliate Programs
Coupon Sites and Luxury Brands
FMTC and FreshReach
Boosting Affiliate Marketing
Coupons and LinkedIn for Connection