Affiliate Nerd Out

What is Martech and How Affiliate Marketing Will Save the World With Michael McNerney

November 04, 2023 Dustin Howes Season 1 Episode 37
Affiliate Nerd Out
What is Martech and How Affiliate Marketing Will Save the World With Michael McNerney
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Get ready to geek out with us as we welcome the innovative Michael McNerney to the show. Michael is the brains behind Martech Record, a leading name in the bustling world of affiliate marketing. Together, we dive into the fascination that is affiliate marketing, and how it shapes the digital space. We uncover the unique story behind Martech Record and discuss the amazing journey Michael embarked upon to establish this trailblazing publication.

As we navigate the intricacies of the affiliate marketing world, we underscore the importance of design in cultivating credibility for publishers. We also discuss the necessity of editorial integrity when crafting content and the subsequent impact on audience engagement. Walking through the digital transformation, we examine how it has influenced content monetization and the emergence of web scraping and SEO. We also get into a spirited debate on the power of authentic content in capturing an audience and disseminating your message.

We wrap things up by casting a glance into the future, exploring the potential of affiliate marketing and its implications for organizations. We delve into monetization strategies in consumer and B2B markets and emphasize the significance of trust and engagement. We also examine the thriving community surrounding Martech Record and discuss the factors that have led to its success. We spotlight the current lack of information in the market and how it presents an opportunity for growth. Join us for a thought-provoking discussion that promises a wealth of insights into the dynamic world of affiliate marketing and content creation.

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 Howes. Spread that good word about affiliate marketing. You're going to find me here on LinkedIn Live every Tuesday and Thursday at 12.15 Pacific Time, so please smash that subscribe button on YouTube or just come hang out on LinkedIn anytime. My nerd guest of the day is Michael McNerney, owner publisher extraordinaire over at Martek Record, and he's going to be nerding out about affiliate and content. So glad to have you, mike. Welcome to the Nerditorium.

Michael Mcnerney:

Thanks for having me, Dustin Howes. I'm happy to be here. I've been told I have a radio voice. But you really do. It's impressive.

Dustin Howes:

It's a work in progress. I'm getting there. I appreciate that sentiment and it's not every day I get somebody that matches my flavor for hair. We've got the same haircut here. I did shave it's November season, yeah, by the terms of our contract. Today I have taken down my famous Will Clark sign autograph Jersey because Mike is such a big Cubs fan and it has been replaced by a picture of my son and a Cubs hat. Then Adam Wise also asked that I bring some New York Mets, so I put some baseball cards up there as well.

Michael Mcnerney:

I was 13 years old when the Giants beat the Cubs and to go to the World Series, that's a devastating time in your life to lose. Will Clark was largely responsible for that tragedy.

Dustin Howes:

That will happen. I felt the same pain in that same year, just a couple of weeks later, when the Giants beat the Giants in the World Series. I feel it, but yes, mark Grace is just the biggest legend in your country, as Will Clark is in mind.

Michael Mcnerney:

Two great swing in lefties Beautiful.

Dustin Howes:

All right, we're jumping into live Q&A here. If you want to get in this chat and you want to talk and ask questions to Mike, this is a great opportunity. Anything, affiliate, anything, content marketing please do so in here. Now we've got a question of the day. What do you want to ask the audience here, mike? Something for engagement purposes. What should the question of the day be?

Michael Mcnerney:

Here's what I want to know of affiliate marketers what team do they report into?

Dustin Howes:

Oh, great call. You mean as in the sales or the marketing team.

Michael Mcnerney:

Essentially, or the product team. I started asking a question of affiliate marketers and I was shocked by the answers I got. I thought everyone would say I reported into the marketing team or the performance team or, and I got people reporting to the BV team, the product team Product was the most interesting and so I just started asking that and I'd be very curious.

Dustin Howes:

I am as well. I feel like from the agency standpoint it is almost exclusively marketing, but I could be wrong. Maybe that's my experience, but others could be. Please drop it in the chat. What team does the affiliate program report to? Great question, mike. Thanks for jumping in there, man. Now, before we get into it, mike, who are you?

Michael Mcnerney:

Good question. I am Mike McNerney. I'm the publisher of Mar-Tech Record. Mar-tech Record is an independent trade publication that covers affiliate, marketing and commerce contents, and I tell anyone who will listen that my background is trade publishing, so I know how to run a trade publishing organization. My background is not affiliate.

Michael Mcnerney:

Like a lot of us, I kind of fell into it and when I got in here, I found it a fascinating market, one that I thought applied a lot to publishing, something I understood I had a lot of need for transparency and information, and so I founded Mar-Tech Record about four years ago and with the goal of being kind of the best independent resource for affiliate marketers, and I think we'll get in there.

Dustin Howes:

Absolutely. I'm always impressed by the content you guys are creating and the folks that you're bringing in to write. That content is always you brought me in every once in a while and just really appreciate you thinking me in that aptitude that I can write, as I said, anyone who listens.

Michael Mcnerney:

I've never run an affiliate market.

Dustin Howes:

I got to find the people who know what they're talking about.

Michael Mcnerney:

That's the role I've got is bringing the experts together.

Dustin Howes:

Well, happy to do so anytime We've got an answer to a question. Kristen Big Time Evans, big Fan, big, two Time guest on the show Marketing and Brand. You've gone to Brand interesting. I guess that makes sense in the E-Com space where she lives and breathes.

Michael Mcnerney:

That's interesting. I don't think you would have put affiliate on the brand team 10 years ago. And today you can use affiliate to tell a story and enhance your brand and I think that's recognized. I think Kristen's answer is interesting in itself.

Dustin Howes:

Well, she's onto something Absolutely One of the biggest potentials in affiliate marketing is on the branding side. A lot of the affiliate content is top of the funnel brand recognition. That pays off in the long run. I guess it does make sense in a lot of ways.

Michael Mcnerney:

Yeah, it's hard to measure, but I think people are starting to learn about it.

Dustin Howes:

True, true, all right. Well, my guess Michael McNerney is here and you can find in the chat a link to his profile, and I'm also going to drop in the link where you can subscribe to Martek record as well. And if you would like to be in my seat, come be my guest. Go to dustin howes. DustinHousecom, slash nerd, drop an application and tell me what you want to nerd out about. We can come and hang out. So, martek record, tell us about the name origin. How did this name come about?

Michael Mcnerney:

It's a good question. So there's kind of two. There's two parts of the name Martek and record. I'll start with Martek.

Michael Mcnerney:

When I was, I started my affiliate career at a platform called Partner Eyes and I was talking to a woman at Ziff Davis and they were looking for B2B publications to acquire at the time, and I thought this was nuts, because I worked at a B2B publication and it was a really hard way to make money. You know, digital ecosystem changed and so I started digging into why she was asking this question and it occurred to me that there was a basic trend line in e-commerce and that was that things that you bought online were getting more expensive and had a more complicated purchase process throughout time. So if you went back 10 years, you bought books and shoes online. You know, now you can buy mattresses and healthcare.

Michael Mcnerney:

Complicated expensive things, right. And to me it seemed pretty obvious that that trend line was going to continue. And so if you were to start a digital media business that monetized things by affiliate, you should just follow that line and see where it goes. And to me, the obvious end point of that line was enterprise software, right. So if you can find a way to write about enterprise software and eventually someone will create good technology that allows you to track those readers, readers will get more sophisticated themselves and start trusting content, which I think they already have.

Michael Mcnerney:

So the first idea was to simply do something in the marketing technology space that creates value, and the second one was I just stole it from the company I used to work for. I stole a lot of good ideas from them. I worked for a company called McGraw Hill that I'm sure most of your listeners know that at the time owned a portfolio of trade publications and I was in charge of their digital media business. This is before we had anything like affiliate to monetize trade publishing or B2B, and a lot of our publications were the something record, and it had this like gravitas. So I needed something with gravitas. We had a publication called architectural record, which is still around.

Michael Mcnerney:

It's a great publication engineering news record and these were kind of like the preeminent publications in these markets and I knew that it was a great term. We could use it all. The record is just a great term, especially for something that you want to be credible, and so I didn't honestly know that it was going to get into the affiliate space. I was still trying to figure out what marketing technology vertical I wanted to go after, but I knew I wanted to use the term record and Mar-Tech gave me a little bit of flexibility as I kind of figured out what it was I wanted to do.

Dustin Howes:

Awesome. That is a great story. I'm glad you had some kind of thought process in it. I love the.

Michael Mcnerney:

I think any entrepreneur out there spends too much time thinking about the name of their business. Right, it's like after it. It takes you forever, and then you just start to realize you should have made that decision months ago.

Dustin Howes:

Well, I feel like the COVID era also bounced off a rebranding era. Like people took the time to rebrand a lot of different brands and you didn't have to go through that, if you strategically put it in place to begin with, then well now, now you say, why don't you call it the affiliate record or the commerce record or all you know?

Michael Mcnerney:

maybe, maybe that's more appropriate, given, given what we cover. But you know, at the time you got, you got to pick a lane and stick with it for sure. I mean you know enough of a wide-acture, that we cover a few different things.

Dustin Howes:

Yeah, everybody's a critic, but Define Martek for everybody out there what? What does Martek mean?

Michael Mcnerney:

Yeah, it just means marketing technology. I think that there's a couple of. You know there's people distinguished between ad tech, which kind of tends to trade back and forth Advertising it's a kind of average media buying technology and Martek, which tends to be SaaS based and allow you to kind of Manage data a little bit.

Michael Mcnerney:

At least that was kind of how people thought about it probably five, ten years ago. The two have kind of merged, you know, yeah, I probably mean the same thing today, so I would define it as more a catch-all term for technology that marketers use to buy, measure and track Media in some capacity, and what we're talking about that's obviously an affiliate that could have applied to the networks and the Platforms as well, as, you know, any of the integrated technology used to optimize your affiliate programs.

Dustin Howes:

Fantastic, great answer. Love it. So, martek, record what are you guys doing and who are you servicing out there?

Michael Mcnerney:

Yeah, so our main goal is to make Decision making easier for anyone who exists in the affiliate marketing or Commerce content space, so we try to look at anywhere there's an important decision to be made, whether that's Choosing an affiliate marketing platform, hiring a service provider via an agency or someone from the platforms right.

Michael Mcnerney:

Thinking about which publishers to partner with what into commission. All of these are important decisions that if we can make a little bit easier for you, then we'll do. We're doing our job right and we can kind of monetize that in a number of ways. And so the observation when I started the business was here is a business that had dozens of different Technology players, thousands of publishers, right Tons of different types of brands, was growing into other markets, kind of as as we got into it and had tons of opaqueness, right Like the easiest way to learn stuff was go to affiliate summit and Great, it was wonderful but, that's not the most efficient way to grow a market right.

Michael Mcnerney:

So our simple job is just how do you create some transparency around these decisions? And so an example is just our buyers guide for marketing for, for platforms and networks. You, as the agency Dustin, are going to make a recommendation to your client. You know that's a core part of your job. Our buyers guide should help them, you know, make that decision a little faster. You may make a recommendation and say hey, by the way, you should just read this and maybe they'll make that decision just a day faster, which makes everyone's job a little easier. It gives people more confidence, right?

Dustin Howes:

Maybe it's.

Michael Mcnerney:

You went to an event that we threw and you met someone and you built trust through them, because you met them in person At our events, or maybe you saw them speak at a webinar that we hosted. Maybe you downloaded one of our Compensation guides that gives you ranges on salaries. All these things you know made your life a little bit easier. We think, and if we make you know a decision a little bit easier, there's value you can capture there, and so that's what we do we. We create content that gets in the middle of these decisions and helps you make them a little bit faster.

Dustin Howes:

Yes, and it's absolutely incredible content written by professionals that know what they're doing, and I Love the strategy that you have in place putting the right people in the right Articles to that have that expertise and experience. Just love how you guys are creating that content for both sides of the affiliate marketing. It is is built some some incredible, incredible gravity towards you as a company and I think it started first from the content. You started you didn't have monetization and involved or in mind necessarily when you started this out. You came with a content first attitude. Can you tell us about that journey? When you did start this four years ago, what are the first steps you did like creating a strategy for this and where it was going?

Michael Mcnerney:

Yeah, well, you know I knew that if you could Develop a strong, engaged audience, you know there are a lot of ways to monetize that, especially in the B2B space, and so to do that, I knew I needed kind of two things. First, one was content, of course, and you just had to make it good, and if you make content good, people will find it right. The second, I don't think we really talked about, was actually came before. That was design. First, you know you have to design really lends credibility to A publisher and I think that the kind of offerings that were in the market at that point just didn't look professional. They may have been good, they just didn't look professional.

Dustin Howes:

Okay.

Michael Mcnerney:

You know, I I started my career at a big New York ad agency and, lucky enough, my art director had started her own agency after that and I went to her and I said Katie, you got to make some logos that look like we've been here for a while. Mm-hmm, she did just that.

Michael Mcnerney:

she's fantastic, you know if anyone out there is looking for a great graphic designer. You know she created kind of gravitas right away and that really is important. When you're publishing, you want people to believe while you're publishing it's valuable and don't overlook the design element. So we created design and so we kind of a shell to start with and then sat down and said what would be valuable for people who are trying to make decisions? And I think the first Thing we did was say, hey, how do we evaluate the, the platforms and the networks out there?

Michael Mcnerney:

Mm-hmm, we went out and just conducted surveys and got real data and real feedback and have an advantage of not having any clients at the point, was you can publish whatever you want, right? So One of you know, if you start with clients first, then you get a little biased about what you publish, right? Okay, I'm paying you, right, so you might, you know, you know, publish something that's a little more favorable to them. But if you don't have any clients, you can publish the information that happens really credible, and then that established, you know a trend, right, people understood that that's who we were. You know the correct information, or information that was from you know people who work in the industry, right?

Michael Mcnerney:

I've said it a million times, like I've never run an affiliate marketing campaign. So what we publish comes from you. We're just run surveys, we publish what you say, we get experts involved and I'm not smart enough about affiliate marketing to to alter the content. I just believe you and publish it, and then I think what ends up happening then is our clients See that that really attracts people and it's not much higher engagement.

Michael Mcnerney:

Then if you're kind of catering to you know one advertiser or another, and once you kind of establish that independence, it's easier to kind of move forward with that. You know, since you already have it, have it going. So it's kind of design then content, and then next comes people reading it and once that's happening, then you monetize right. You need some patience to do that right. You need to spend a year of your life probably not generating a ton of. Yeah super easy but but I think it pays off in the long run.

Dustin Howes:

Well, yeah, you're through that process. You're through the hard part, right, and I love the editorial integrity portion of what you guys have built out there, of the content first, and you're not, you know, taking money where you don't necessarily ranking Companies above others. I mean, I think you know things like g2 that have Softwares out there that they're pitching. You can buy your way to the top of that and I don't love that. It's not a great user experience and I love going. I will go to a content publication like yourself, way before I ever go and listen to Experts talk about those five stars and like how they got there. I mean.

Michael Mcnerney:

To me, g2 represents exactly what was wrong with, still is, to some degree, the internet right, which was before g2. You had quality print publications that people posted.

Michael Mcnerney:

You also had bad ones too, by the way, but people understood which ones had higher quality. You know, digital transformation kind of destroyed some the way you monetize content, and there was a gap between Building new or so in the middle of building new content providers that have quality. And in the middle, people like g2 Figured out that if you're just really good at scraping the web and SEO, you can attract an audience and throw up rankings and make a bunch of money. Right, but it's not a long term strategy, right? I mean, everyone kind of knows right now, those things are bogus. All you got to do is look at one of those graphs they produce and realize no one there has ever worked in that industry, has any clue what they're talking about. Right, they're really good at SEO and they're great at web scraping, which are both automated tools.

Michael Mcnerney:

Right, it's harder to get an audience if you're doing what I'm doing, right, but the audience you get actually listens to you and eventually that makes a difference.

Dustin Howes:

And word gets around the streets too. Like they, they come to your publication because they know it's authentic. So let's talk about the, the content and then the monetization. When is that right time for a company to go and start thinking about making money with the site and the content that they've already created?

Michael Mcnerney:

You know I think it really depends on what market you're in, you know you have to have engagement and trust on some level right, and it depends what you're trying to do, right. What I've been trying to do is create, you know, media property, and so you need some degree of scale to do that right. You can't just have two people in your audience.

Michael Mcnerney:

You could take you know, a B2B audience, you know, and turn that into a referral business, you know, then you can have less people. So really kind of depends on how you want to make money and what, what vertical you, what vertical you exist in. So you know, for us it was, you know, between the first real piece of content we put out it was kind of a it's called an eight month process before we started having revenue and probably another year before you're driving enough revenue to be really making money. But that's hard to say, I don't, I don't know. I think if you're in the consumer space it's a totally different game which, on the consumer media space, that terrifies me. You gotta compete much, much harder. You got to deal with Google, which I don't really have to deal with. So you know it totally depends. That's a terrible answer to your question.

Dustin Howes:

Well, I don't think so. I mean, it's all general. Some strategists will say, like, let a piece of content bake for a couple of months at least, until Google console can, like, pick up the SEO value of it and it starts to rank on Google before you ever put monetization into it. If you monetize it immediately, it might hurt that value of the content, of what Google sees in their eyes. So everybody's got a different strategy. But some want to make money quicker, like yeah. I think it really depends.

Michael Mcnerney:

Like you mentioned, like I don't pay attention to Google or SEO right Type community. You know we're way too narrow for for. You can start looking at search terms for you know, this about affiliate marketing and it's a really narrow and not huge audience, so it's not this massive, scalable audience. Like you know, we just try to create really good content for a really tight community, and if I spend my whole time thinking about search and Google, I'd rather I'd rather create good content, right.

Dustin Howes:

Absolutely. I mean Adam Reimer and Leigh Ann Johnstone all have that same mentality, adam Wise as well as like in that content focus, I'm writing things that people want to read essentially and, yeah, you're covering, like you know washing machines, right, it's a different story.

Michael Mcnerney:

Right, there's a formula. Yeah, it takes six months, right. You do all the right things for SEO. Then it becomes every green content. You update it every six months right, there's a formula there and you create great content doing that too. I don't think that formula exists for something as niche as I'm doing. If it does, and someone else out there knows that, just give me a call after the chat about it.

Dustin Howes:

Oh, fantastic, all right, and let's talk about affiliate and where it fits into your strategy. You guys are jumping into it now, but it wasn't there maybe a year or two ago. How is affiliate working for you right now?

Michael Mcnerney:

Yeah, so it's not right we're not doing anything in affiliate. Okay, monetizing our own content presently. However, it's a very important part of our strategy, as I kind of said a little bit earlier when I started this. You know, I drew that line saying you know, today is healthcare and mattresses. Those are both complicated, expensive purchases, what's what's five years from now?

Michael Mcnerney:

And to me it was, you know, enterprise level software, which I think affiliate platforms and agencies and all that kind of qualify it. And so I think we're kind of halfway to that point where the consumers and the readers trust the content and that the advertisers, in this case being platforms, networks, other types of technology, service providers would like to set up an affiliate program. Right, but I don't think it's quite. It's quite there, right, yeah, but I think we're like really close to a point. I'd love to have it so that I can track you know who read what review, and you know we get a commission from you know, rackets and their impact or CJ or whomever based on, based on that, but we're not quite there yet. Okay, close.

Dustin Howes:

And once we are.

Michael Mcnerney:

I can really use your. You know someone's help so absolutely Happy to help you.

Dustin Howes:

I love what you're doing and I'd love to be a part of it. So happy to come in. Alright, let's take a quick break for our sponsor the day. This is something near and dear to my heart and it is performed marketing manager. But, more importantly, it is November season and this face is fresh because I'm going to be growing a stash on it over November. November has been a part of my life for the last 13 years as well, and it's all about men's health and getting to that doctor. Go to dustinhowes. com. Slash mauve. You would like to donate to my campaign, and I'm personally putting in a portion of my profits this year to my November campaign as well. Have you ever been a mo bro there, mike?

Michael Mcnerney:

I haven't, but now I'm inspired. You know I could have. I was going to do Mike did for Halloween, but I didn't get around to it. So that would be a perfect, you know, a perfect start.

Dustin Howes:

That would have been a great start. Yes, you have the bears oh yeah, I got the whole.

Michael Mcnerney:

Thing.

Dustin Howes:

Fantastic, awesome, well, thanks for for joining me in there. Now, pivoting into like affiliate you guys aren't doing an affiliate strategy to beat strategy, necessarily, but for some reason, the affiliate world has gravitated towards your community like something I've never seen before. And Martek Records Slack group is up to like 4,000 people now in there and everybody in there is generously giving their opinions to questions like hey, does anybody have a contact over here? What do you think about this kind of product? Is this merchant, is somebody to work with? Everybody is sharing at a an incredible click and it is a great community to be a part of. How did this happen? Why are so many publishers and merchants alike coming into Martek Records? And this is our hub.

Michael Mcnerney:

Well, I mean, I wish I had a great answer. I think, honestly, the easiest and most truthful answer is it's a reflection of people who work in Mart in affiliate marketing.

Dustin Howes:

Okay.

Michael Mcnerney:

You know, that's something I learned when I joined, so eight years ago now is it's just? With or without technology. It's people who are just very willing to connect to share, to help people out, and you know that's, it's just it's a great group of people and I love working in this community partially because of that.

Michael Mcnerney:

So I think that's the key. There's some kind of other trends right that I think kind of help make this market a place where kind of a Slack community thrives. You know, one is and most importantly, I think that it's a kind of community that when it's growing and it is all boats kind of rise right and everyone kind of sees that and so there's an incentive to help. The second is, it's a market where there's a lot of opaqueness, right. It's not easy to find or it wasn't until we started right the right technology, the right service, the right pricing. You know, when I started at partner eyes, the first thing I said was who are the competitors in this market? And took me like two months to figure it out. It was like I had to fly around the country and ask a bunch of questions, which was great. I learned how great people are and I learned how hard it was to find information. And so I think the opaqueness of the market, kind of the fact that it's growing and everyone sees that, you know, by sharing information they can grow, and the need for new information, you know those things just help make a community grow, how it grew on Slack is a little I don't. I wish I had a great answer. You know, I wish I had a really strategic, thoughtful answer about how I built this type of thing, but I think it's a reflection of the community more than me, right?

Michael Mcnerney:

I invited people in the beginning when I needed people to fill out surveys, because I needed something to give them, frankly, and I didn't have much. And then I gave, I invited people who registered for some of our webinars early because, again, I didn't have a lot to offer as I was, as I was getting started, and then I got lucky that the right people started to contribute. And you know, I've been proving wrong so many times looking at that community and thinking I know what I'm talking about, right, I look in there and I see someone post something and I'm like why are they asking that? And then tons of conversation starts, right. And then I'll post something and, like you know, crickets. So I've been proving over and over again that, like, it's not my content that's doing it, it's other people.

Dustin Howes:

But it is super interesting.

Michael Mcnerney:

I mean, and I almost say too, like before I started, I really didn't like Slack. You know, it's just another thing. Really, things were like I felt old because it was another thing that was alerting me on my phone. I didn't want more. You know, first time I really felt old technology perspective. I felt like my parents being like what is this extra thing? And then you know I've got, you know it's. You know, 3,500 people or so in a Slack community.

Dustin Howes:

Yeah that's.

Michael Mcnerney:

that seemed very engaged and it seems seems to be, it seems to be something people like, so it's.

Dustin Howes:

It is pretty incredible. The only way you can get into that Slack channel is to subscribe to Martek record and then you can get an invite. This is an invite, only Slack channel.

Michael Mcnerney:

You need to get invited by somebody in the channel and be subscribed to Martek record, so subscribe. It's in the link somewhere Dustin posted that, yeah.

Dustin Howes:

yeah, it's in the chat there, go go get it, dustin.

Michael Mcnerney:

invite you to Slack channel.

Dustin Howes:

I can uh if, if I approve, we'll see like uh.

Michael Mcnerney:

Dustin is our qualified.

Dustin Howes:

Justin, absolutely. Um, all right, so you don't know the answer, but I do. Uh, it is a. It is the cool club right now, like everybody's coming to this because we've all been looking for it in our career and everybody keeps on engaging and it is. I am checking it on the daily and engaging with other people and answering their questions, and that's the person I want to be, and the people that you're that are gravitating towards it are in that same kind of mindset. So, um, it is a hot place to be. Uh, this, this Slack channel is, is where all the cool kids are right now.

Michael Mcnerney:

I am curious too from your community and people who I'm sure there are people listening who are active members in there is, um, I get worried if it gets too big, right, and what's the point where you fractionalize it? Right, and how do you do that, right? And I, since I've been so hands off, my instinct is to just remain hands off about it. But, um, you know, it's closed in on 4,000 people, which is a lot, yeah, and there's a point where you know you want to get into some subgroups. Right, and this is again goes back to my career at McGraw Hill. We we've covered architecture, design, construction, and we would create at the time these, like you know, very tight groups of you know architects who built schools, you know, and you know contractors who did roofing or whatever, and so I'm always wondering, like, when, when's the point where you kind of fractionalize this stuff?

Michael Mcnerney:

and so, um, that's my second question yeah, for for people.

Dustin Howes:

Well, I think you're doing a great uh job of that already, naturally, like there's a a publication spot, there is an agency spot, there is a uh network and event spot and you can you can post in these freely and you're uh making sure everybody's following the rules on a, we really appreciate when you are policing the. The folks out there that are are trying to be overly uh, promotional. I would say, um, and it's a fine line sometimes, does not be overly promotional.

Michael Mcnerney:

Everyone wants to use it to get business right. So they totally sure you know, we're just trying to be, uh, you know, a friendly, a friendly way of doing it, you know you kind of know when you know right, because, uh, that's my only way of describing it.

Dustin Howes:

Yeah, I don't think you should change anything. Honestly, I can't believe more people don't post questions on the daily on there and just um, really get into it. I, I, I wanted to stay the same, where it is like the engagement today is great, and if it raises up to 5 000 like, so be it. Uh, I just hope more people do engage. Um, so, um. So let's take a step back and talk about lessons for those young entrepreneurs out there that are you had to take a leap at some point and say, hey, I'm going to create this awesome publication, I'm going to do it the right way. I'm going to be taking a break on paychecks for X amount of months or years or whatever to make this happen. What are some of those lessons you want to give to the folks out there that might be thinking about taking the same leap?

Michael Mcnerney:

Yeah, I'll tell you what the advice I got was from my dad, who worked in some entrepreneurial roles, and I had never thought of myself as a risk taker or an entrepreneur. It was not something that I even considered until I was kind of in my early 40s. And advice he'd given me years before kind of crept up, if you will, and that was if you see a problem, fix it, and if you fix it, you probably have a business, right. So I just haven't seen any problems. I'm sure I had, but I kind of ignored them to that point. And I got into the affiliate marketing space and this problem of lack of information became pretty glaring to me and then I realized that I was in a unique position to know how to fix it. I'm probably one of the few people who's ever run a trade publications, digital media business and worked in affiliate marketing. That was a unique skill set, right. I didn't realize it until suddenly it hit me in the face that the industry needed a trade pub and I happened to know how to do that. And so that advice that I'd heard years earlier, which is, if you see a problem, fix it, I added to it, which is if you see a problem that you know how to fix, go fix it. And so that's how I started and that's advice that I'd pass on to anyone is if you're sitting there and you see a problem, stop complaining and then you'll have a business.

Michael Mcnerney:

The second one is, yes, scary. It's not having a salary. I was not a risk taker. I've never been out of a job and suddenly there I was, without a job, trying to start something that, frankly, most people I knew well did not understand and thought was totally nuts. But you got to have conviction right. You got to know in your heart that this is the right thing. I just knew this was the right thing. So I think that's important because it takes all of the effort you have in the world and if you don't have that energy in you, you won't make it. The third thing is really simple, but you forget sometimes because you wake up plenty of days kind of wondering what the hell you're thinking.

Michael Mcnerney:

It's just do one thing right, one thing at a time, and Dustin, you run your own business, and so I'm sure you can relate to this. Like you know, sometimes they have a hard time getting started. It's just do that one thing right, and whatever that one thing is, we'll leave, do another thing, and you know, pretty soon that gets the ball rolling. So it can be a simple thing, but just just do one thing and do it right away in the morning. And he ended up, you know, publishing a lot.

Dustin Howes:

That is a great tip. It is something that's taken me a long time to figure out. I get this anxiety. I call it a case of the Mondays Like yeah, we've all been there right, we're somewhere out.

Michael Mcnerney:

It's hard to do one thing, it's hard to respond to an email sometimes, and it's amazing what doing one thing can do. And then, on top of that, do one thing at a time. Okay, because it gets really easy to get overwhelmed with the 100 things you've got to do, but you're not going to be able to do more than one at a time, so just do one thing and then do a second thing.

Dustin Howes:

So so true, All right. What's the affiliate future hold? What do you have in mind here? Where do you think this industry is going?

Michael Mcnerney:

Yeah, I mean. I think the general prediction that I have for three or four years ago is still proving out and still correct, right, which is the affiliate tactic, as I'll call it in this case, is something that almost any content provider who's trying to monetize content can and will use, and in some capacity, and I you know that was five years ago that was seen as a future looking.

Michael Mcnerney:

I think we're in that space now. So I think we're kind of still on that slope of like affiliate tracks e-commerce growth and will be kind of leveraged by any content providers out there. What I think the second phase of that that's starting to happen now is, if that's true, then the corollary of that is pretty much any marketer whether they're an affiliate marketing team, you know a PR team, an influencer team, a brand team, you know a BDE team that's setting up deals should have affiliate in their tool belt, right. It's a tactic that helps, you know, amplify a lot of the things you're doing, and I think that's starting to be recognized. I think that's the kind of new thing that's going to be talked about in 2024, which is something we all kind of know deep down right. Like if you're using affiliate to write reviews and those reviews are filling up you know the internet, then that's a branding tool that impacts your branding.

Michael Mcnerney:

Sure, there's no question that people are reading dozens of reviews and then making decisions. A lot of those budgets are coming from affiliate, and that is impacting you know how people perceive your brand, and so that has a lot of implications in terms of marketing teams and how you structure your team. Krista made a point that she's on the brand team. That probably wasn't the case five years ago. The person I was referencing is on their product team, right? These are all reflections of organizations that are trying to figure out how to pepper, you know, affiliate throughout the organization. On the flip side, you have the publishers, right. How does that impact their business? Right? Well, how do they sell affiliate? Do they put together a totally separate?

Dustin Howes:

team.

Michael Mcnerney:

Do they start selling hybrid?

Michael Mcnerney:

deals which are already happening, a lot of times by accident. We had a webinar about this a couple of weeks ago, and so I think the proliferation is what you're going to see. I think that where the risk comes in right is that you know what has traditionally been, you know a siloed market, kind of sitting in its own space, can now kind of be pilfered by other channels, right? So you know you're going to start to see brand teams taking this budget. I mean, they're good at that, and so if I'm an affiliate marketer right now, there's both great opportunity to start working across channel, teaching people how to kind of use this. But there's great risk that other people are going to take the budget and run with this. So I would get really good at you know what they call cross functional behavior. All right, getting to know your whole team. It's sooner or later someone's going to figure out you know how to kind of amplify brand or how to measure it. It's already happening, right?

Michael Mcnerney:

And there's already people doing this, but I think it's going to kind of be bigger and bigger, and so that's the general where I think it's going. I think the one other thing I would say here is I'm really surprised we haven't seen more conversation from affiliate marketers about, you know, retail media, media on Amazon, right, because at the end of the day, they're both paying commissions to distribute a product to a customer, right? There's some differences in how you work with those platforms. But if I'm an affiliate marketer, like, why aren't affiliate teams and agencies, you know, partnering or working on those budgets as well? So I think we'll start to see a little bit of that collide. I mean, those are huge, huge markets.

Dustin Howes:

So yeah, Well, I mean, it is a $15 billion market. That number can't be by mistake. I think one of the most used cliches I hear from potential clients is like affiliate marketing doesn't work for us and our company and maybe you didn't do it right. The first time is always my combatant, because I'm working. I've never figured out a solution that doesn't work for some kind of company. And putting the motivation to publishers with the commission structure, that is a bit it will work if you turn the right screw.

Michael Mcnerney:

So well I think too, it's important. This is how.

Michael Mcnerney:

I think about affiliate as somebody who came into the market from marketing channels was, you know, affiliate is just distribution, right, you are just buying distribution. Right, you are finding partners who are you are going to pay commissions to sell your product and if you go back a generation right, a marker owned. You know, building the products, promoting the products, finding distribution partners, and that kind of got chopped up by all these different digital channels. Digital straight marketing. It made just search teams, it just did search and social teams, it just did social and then there was branding over here.

Michael Mcnerney:

That's not the way marketing is supposed to work. You're supposed to sit there and say, how do we get this product to market? And we'll think about that holistically. And in many ways, affiliate kind of covers all of it because it's distribution and saying, okay, which of these partners out there am I going to work with to get into market? Should include Amazon, should include Walmart and should also include all these great websites out there. So I think one way of thinking about it is as a distribution which raises the conversation up the level in the organization.

Dustin Howes:

That is such a good point. That brings me into my lesson of the day. It's just what you said here is affiliate is part of all of these channels, and the strategy, the true strategy here is to be a part of brand, to be a part of marketing, to be a part of sales. It is encompassing all of it and you're under utilizing it if you're just siphoning it into one bucket. Essentially and that's my big lesson and takeaway from our conversation here Mike, you have to defend your post very quickly here. Since Honey Acquisition, I've been wondering is this just a maturation of coupon channel, now fully digital, or has it matured to the point of being able to rival other digital acquisition channels? Do you still feel the same way? This is a four-year-old comment, mike, but do you still feel like coupon channel has its realm in this place? What say you?

Michael Mcnerney:

Oh, okay. Well, first of all, I'm obviously quoting Mike Giacchini, who's a much smarter guy than I am, and so whatever he said was obviously correct. Well, what I think, what I'd love to go back and read that article is, I mean, first of all, yeah, coupon is definitely part of this space, right, and it's a vital part of this space. I think people forget that coupons before affiliate were massively important to people's marketing strategy and are today. I think what's happening a little bit is that affiliate has now gotten to be something that you apply to everything, right, and what people kind of refer to as affiliate is kind of the old coupon cashback loyalty market which existed for the internet right that was bought coupons and papers.

Michael Mcnerney:

My first job was selling coupons in the Northwestern University, which was not an easy job because people don't exactly use the yellow pages in their university phone book, which I learned after I took the job, when I was the teen or so, that's, I think what I was saying there was it. Did someone come in and say, oh my God, this is the digitization of the entire coupon market and we're going to capture that? And I think the answer was yes. And then there was some extra valuation added on top of that. Yeah, because you say, oh, if we plop PayPal on top of this right, we can also kind of create all this value at checkout right. I don't think that's quite played out. I don't know if that was an execution or a strategy issue. I think we're probably still seeing that play out.

Dustin Howes:

When that acquisition happened, I was terrified Like PayPal was going to be, like the new coupon, loyalty, like distribution of it all, and I was scared to say the least. But not much has come of it and I'm okay with that.

Michael Mcnerney:

I think, just talking to people, I think a lot of people have told me at least that it was more of an execution issue. They got into it and realized it was difficult and got distracted by other stuff.

Dustin Howes:

Collecting people's money.

Michael Mcnerney:

I think in this program we think of $4 billion as a lot of money that would force you to really execute an acquisition and in PayPal's world it wasn't a big thought, that's right, that's something I love. That was one of the first posts I think I put up after I started. Mark Tech Records Awesome. You said it, it's right. That's all I know.

Dustin Howes:

Yeah, great episode, says Kristen. Thank you for joining us, kristen. Appreciate you All. Right, as we wrap this up, my next week's guests are Sarah Bundy and Marshall Nyman. Stop by on Tuesday and Thursday for that. If you would like my personal affiliate program checklist, use this QR code up here. Go to Dustinhowes. com slash checklist. Here's signing off. Thanks for joining me. Mike and everyone else out there, keep on recirculating.

Michael Mcnerney:

Awesome, Dustin. Thanks so much for having me. It was a lot of fun.

Dustin Howes:

You got it, man. Take care Later. Alright, I'm off to work.

Affiliate Marketing and Content Nerding Out
Publishing
Monetization and Timing in Content Creation
Affiliate Marketing Community Growth
Future of Affiliate Marketing and Impact