Affiliate Nerd Out

Incrementality: More Than A Made Up Word with Tom Rathbone

November 17, 2023 Dustin Howes Season 1 Episode 40
Incrementality: More Than A Made Up Word with Tom Rathbone
Affiliate Nerd Out
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Affiliate Nerd Out
Incrementality: More Than A Made Up Word with Tom Rathbone
Nov 17, 2023 Season 1 Episode 40
Dustin Howes

Decipher the enigma of incrementality in marketing alongside our engaging guest, Tom Rathbone, VP of Product at PartnerCentric. Promising to unravel the complexities and nuances of marketing, Tom's insights are akin to an exciting journey into the realm of affiliate channel economics. Curious about how to attribute value to every facet of marketing? Tom's got you covered.

Prepare to navigate the labyrinth of attribution models and the intriguing concept of Buzzstream, a beneficial partner recruitment platform. Uncover the impact of privacy regulations on cross-server tracking as Tom imparts strategies to mitigate cross-device attribution issues. Why should you stay within regulations for effective tracking? What are the implications for the industry? Tom offers enlightening answers that will have you reassessing your strategies.

As we progress through this thought-provoking episode, the discussion shifts to affiliate platform transparency and incentives. Learn from Tom about the importance of data privacy regulations, the pitfalls of sharing Personal Identifiable Information (PII) with affiliates, and creative strategies for incentivizing affiliate partners. Discover the latest trends in affiliate marketing and end the journey with an invaluable affiliate manager checklist. Are you ready to learn from the best in the business? Buckle up, this episode promises a treasure trove of insights!

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

Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Decipher the enigma of incrementality in marketing alongside our engaging guest, Tom Rathbone, VP of Product at PartnerCentric. Promising to unravel the complexities and nuances of marketing, Tom's insights are akin to an exciting journey into the realm of affiliate channel economics. Curious about how to attribute value to every facet of marketing? Tom's got you covered.

Prepare to navigate the labyrinth of attribution models and the intriguing concept of Buzzstream, a beneficial partner recruitment platform. Uncover the impact of privacy regulations on cross-server tracking as Tom imparts strategies to mitigate cross-device attribution issues. Why should you stay within regulations for effective tracking? What are the implications for the industry? Tom offers enlightening answers that will have you reassessing your strategies.

As we progress through this thought-provoking episode, the discussion shifts to affiliate platform transparency and incentives. Learn from Tom about the importance of data privacy regulations, the pitfalls of sharing Personal Identifiable Information (PII) with affiliates, and creative strategies for incentivizing affiliate partners. Discover the latest trends in affiliate marketing and end the journey with an invaluable affiliate manager checklist. Are you ready to learn from the best in the business? Buckle up, this episode promises a treasure trove of insights!

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'm your Nerderator, Dustin Howes, spreading that good word about affiliate marketing. You're going to find me every Tuesday and Thursday here on LinkedIn Live and on YouTube Live, so please smash that subscribe button and put it on the calendars for 12.15 on those days Pacific time. My nerd guest of the day is Tom Rathbone, vp of Product over at PartnerCentric. Tom, welcome to the Nerditorium.

Tom Rathbone:

Thanks for having me to your Nerditorium.

Dustin Howes:

Awesome, and we are going to be going through some live Q&A today. I'm going to put a question of the day in the chat and I would love to hear from you, and so would Tom. If you have any questions for myself or for Tom, please put them in the chat here. But the question of the day is what is incrementality to you? It is more than a made up word, but I want to hear from our folks out there about what this is. I'm going to put that in the chat, but without further ado. Tom, who are you?

Tom Rathbone:

I'm Tom. I feel like I belong here. I'm definitely a nerd, so this is pretty. This is good. This is a warm, comforting blanket around me. I'm the vice president of Product at PartnerCentric, where I've been for over 15 years now.

Tom Rathbone:

A super crazy sentence to say and marketing. Just in general, I've been working with our now CEO and owner, stephanie, for that entire time. Years ago we had decided to focus more on tech, tracking, integrating migrations product, those types of things, and that's kind of where I've been focusing ever since, because I was appropriately nerdy. I think that's been going pretty well. That's definitely the focus now. So I oversee our technical operations team, but also our product team, our compliance team, our BI work, et cetera. So all the fun nerdy little toys I get to play with and build.

Dustin Howes:

Fantastic, all right, and you're in DC area, but you guys are all fully remote, right.

Tom Rathbone:

Yeah, we're fully remote. Our headquarters is technically in New York. I'm based about an hour north of DC and west of Baltimore. Out in the beauty of remote work, I have an old country farmhouse situation here, plenty of room. It's pretty set for the zombie apocalypse.

Dustin Howes:

Oh, fantastic, I got one of those myself. A couple of acres and ready to rock who in it.

Tom Rathbone:

When the time is for bunkers, you can put one over there. You can put one over there if you want. It's great.

Dustin Howes:

I can't wait until I get to actually build that bunker and really, really strap in for that coming. So you can find the link to Tom's profile in the chat here. If you would like to sit in Tom's seat, come be my guest. Dustinhowes. com slash nerd, drop an application in there and talk about what you want to nerd out about. So, Tom, today let's talk partner centric. I want to hear about this name origin story. I'm pretty familiar with it from the days of Brooke, but let's hear it for the crowd.

Tom Rathbone:

I'll try and give the timeline there. So when I joined in 2008, we were a Shoff Consulting that was Brooke Shoff and Forest Shoff and started that company. Stephanie Harris, our now CEO, was the first hire. Fast forward to a few years. Shoff Consulting had bought partner centric at the time of a wholly different agency, started by somebody else and became Shoff Partner Centric. Then, in 2017, I hope I got that year right, if not, stephanie, you'll kill me Stephanie did a management buyout of Shoff Partner Centric, effectively buying out Brooke and Forest, and rebranded just partner centric because the name is kind of more appropriate for what we are Partner centric it's all partnerships, everything that we do, and it fell right and we've been sticking with that ever since.

Dustin Howes:

Fantastic, all right, and then tell us about what you guys are doing and who you're servicing out there.

Tom Rathbone:

Yeah, brands, definitely like exclusivity brands. Our sweet spot is usually Challenger brands, good tech, heavy startups, and then definitely larger to enterprise size brands as well. We focus primarily on affiliate marketing services, partnership marketing services whichever term you want to use today which does include influencer, it does include referral marketing, and then we have a subset of our clients as well that just come on mainly for the technology that we build out to service our clients. That isn't something you would find in the networks, it's a little specific. We do solve some problems that some of our brands stick with us for and just come to us from a technical technology only perspective.

Dustin Howes:

Yeah, I have heard many great things about what you guys are building over there through the agency and for your clients. Julia Abla is always whispering in my ear all the cool things that you guys have going on there, and I'm very excited to talk more about that today. But let's get to the topic of the day, and that is incrementality. So this used to be a made up word. Somebody changed that, and now what does it mean to you?

Tom Rathbone:

It's tricky. Yeah, incrementality is one of those things where now we get this as well in the attribution space where all right, I'm going to go off on a tangent a little bit and try to loop it back out what we're talking about. We have this challenge in the industry where everyone feels like every single thing should be really measured and we should be able to attribute value perfectly to every single thing that goes on, and that's to an extent we can measure a ton of things. It's kind of like economics. It's like a dismal science. You can't actually prove what people are doing, because people buy things for silly, stupid reasons all the time. You know, like somebody had told them to go buy this new I don't know kegerator or something, and then they went through some other link and the brand only saw that one link right. So there's like it is marketing data. It has to be treated like marketing data.

Tom Rathbone:

But we also need to be able to measure the things that we can, and I think the big challenge for us is trying not to get overly scientific about those things, including what is and what is not like an incremental publisher.

Tom Rathbone:

So what we try and do is we take feedback from all of our brands for what they consider to be incremental sales. An incremental publisher, Like for us we heard it was going to be earlier funnel activity, introducing new customers, maybe reactivating customers that didn't buy anything. So we, our incrementality like perspective is wholly based on what our brand feels going to be incremental to them. It's not some crazy complicated Markov chain data science thing where we're just trying to like say deterministically like this sale would have happened, would not have happened unless the single touch point happened. Like we don't have that. We're just trying to simply measure the directional indicators of incremental publishers that lead, or publishers that lead, to incremental sales you wouldn't have otherwise gotten or may not have otherwise gotten, and just try and be productive with that data instead of trying to be perfectly scientific about that data.

Dustin Howes:

All right, good enough, and your philosophy here is everybody is driving a little bit of value, but you're trying your best to figure out where that, to figure out where that true value is Like when you've got coupon sites out there. That might not be driving the incremental sales that you traditionally get from content publishers, but you guys are out there like really diving into that data on your end.

Tom Rathbone:

Yeah, like the coupon thing is a common example and we certainly.

Tom Rathbone:

I think one of the tricky things we have is that for so long, the pervasive measurement for what is and what is in performance is like a single touch point, last click perspective, and it leaves a lot of gaps to fill.

Tom Rathbone:

So what we see is a lot of agencies and brands and other marketers like they would use a subjective category of a publisher like Kuban as a proxy for how incremental they are, based on how they expect people to be interacting with that site and in some cases they might have been right.

Tom Rathbone:

But when we kind of have a different way to, yeah, we're still looking at last click from like a commissioning perspective, but we have a different measurement to look at how the publishers interacting with all sales that happen on the brand site, every single sale and every single touch point beyond, like how they're leading those things. It gives us another view to either validate those those you know preconceived notions and with some cases they're accurate, but in some cases, like they're super surprising that some publishers are driving a certain type of traffic that you did not expect at all and that's really great for us to know. Like all of us being equal, we may do a placement or a media buy with that publisher who's more incremental, or we may mess with this publisher's commission rate or just kind of lean on them a bit more because we see that they are, they're getting like more of a multiplier effect from that publisher versus what you see is what you get in a last click perspective.

Dustin Howes:

For sure, for sure, and many of the networks out there are giving us that last click perspective by default, but you guys are getting more access to what the brand's true timeline of those customers are and what they really mean to you. So love what you're doing there. Let's take a step back, though, and talk about what partner centrics real affiliate program philosophy is when you take on a client. What's your goal here? When you're setting up all this incrementality setup.

Tom Rathbone:

Yeah, I guess our goal is to. Yeah, there's a lot of nuts and bolts work in affiliate. There's so much of that and you can do that forever. There's no end to that amount of work. For sure, it is a fire hose all the time.

Tom Rathbone:

But for us we need to be able to have like to pull back and have a broader view and say, okay, well, how are they interacting with other channels? What's the full funnel view? What are the overall goals of you as a brand with affiliate, as it also relates to the rest of your marketing mix? And I think for us, we want to make sure that this is super. This is very selfish for us. We do this because inevitably, what we would find is a year or two later, if all you do is nuts and bolts. The questions come to you for like, well, what am I actually getting from this? What value am I receiving from affiliate? Or am I just eroding margin? And without having the ability to pull back and see how it interfaces, how each publisher, which is his own marketing channel, almost interfaces with the rest of the mix, we didn't really have the ability to answer those questions well and to be able to optimize towards what the brand wanted from us across the board, and also, if we didn't do that, we also find that the affiliate channel as well silos itself a lot you can't sell it itself or it's been siloed a lot because of a lot of very good reasons or natural reasons.

Tom Rathbone:

But we didn't want to remain in that silo because once you're in that bucket it's hard to get out.

Dustin Howes:

For sure.

Tom Rathbone:

We want to, from the start, like hang on, like what's really going on here? Be able to look at other channels, be able to look at how we interface and just change that narrative from the jump, because convincing people that you can do something different is really hard after a year. I need you to know what you are, what you are to them.

Dustin Howes:

Absolutely. And speaking of different, what are you guys doing differently with tracking attribution, I feel like I've heard. Did you guys have your own in-house tools that are making you more effective than the common practice consultant of affiliate marketing? What are you guys doing so differently out there?

Tom Rathbone:

We do have some tools. We do have some patented tools, which is our own conversation for the patenting process. So again going back to our client's feedback for attribution, incrementality and what am I really getting out of this? And one of the things we have seen forever is that issue of when you add up all the different marketing platforms, they add up to a lot more in sales than you actually got as a brand. And that's tough if you are programmatic or whatever. But if the basis for the cost of the channel is aligned to that, it's extra problematic If they don't trust that data.

Tom Rathbone:

So on the attribution side, we integrate with our brand's own analytics and attribution platforms, pull that data down and utilize that data for attribution. So if there's instances of double counting, like deduplication, but also a different touch point or something like that, we can now align to that strategically and that may change. I definitely am not somebody that's going to sit here and say there's a right attribution model. There definitely isn't. And some people think that attribution is something that should be done after the fact and look backwards, measure, adapt perspective, and sure, that's not wrong. But I very much think that if you want something different in a paper performance channel. You have to track performance a bit differently.

Dustin Howes:

For sure. And why is it that the affiliate channel really only gets paid when that last click is defined? I feel like it's an outdated system, obviously, but it's like we still stick with this last click attribution and the affiliate channel only gets credit for the sale when that last click is happening through that channel, but all the other channels get this free funsies of like, if we touched it, we're getting credit as well. Why is that so true and affiliate across the board?

Tom Rathbone:

Well, to an extent, though, that's actually not even that true, because if you use just your own tracking and you don't use any other channels, they're actually that now we're going to claim credit for anything that it touched.

Tom Rathbone:

It's not actually last click. It's the last click they saw, but usually they don't see all the other clicks. So it is like a more of an if involved. Like if involved, the last click of who is involved. Attribution model is kind of the standard. But I guess, to answer your question more directly, it like I guess there definitely is a thing where it's been the standard for a long time.

Tom Rathbone:

There's a lot of entrenched parties, there's a lot of very large companies with a lot of money, that kind of have aligned to this and our business models aligned to that and moving away from that is super disruptive so it's slower for them and that's totally like, totally valid. It makes sense why they may be slower to adapt. We do see some new tools come in with like influencer payouts or assist payments and kind of touching that a little bit. So I think that's why you see a lot of the networks more like flirting with it as opposed to wholly adapting to it, because they're in models and valuations are built around that last click perspective, which is simpler. It's what's there, it's a single touch point, and that was just the easiest thing to do at the time, I think, when they first integrated those things, not because it was like the perfect measure of value.

Dustin Howes:

So if that's the perfect measure and there is no perfect system today, when you guys take on a new client and you're trying to decide what the proper attribution model should be for the affiliate program, what is your process? What's that first step you guys are going to take when taking on a new client and deciphering whether or not last click is the right attribution model?

Tom Rathbone:

Well, I think, first and foremost, we're going to see if they have something in-house that they're sticking to across all channels, if everybody from the CMO down is sticking with a certain channel, this certain model at this point in time in their business, and it's a line to the goal to try and achieve. That's the one that we're going to want to steer towards. It's simplest for us, it's best for budgeting, it's more complicated from a managerial perspective, from like a nuts and bolts perspective, no doubt, but that's why we're in the mix is to try and bridge that gap If they don't have one in place. We're not really experts on attribution modeling.

Dustin Howes:

Okay.

Tom Rathbone:

So it's hard for us to. We can have a conversation, we can say oh, your goals, like your KPIs, are like the single touchpoint, that is the last click before someone moves to the checkout page or something like that. Like maybe they have some KPIs that will want to adapt into an attribution model, or in many cases we will stick with the last click and that's fine for what their goals are in the business. Right then, and like I'm not down on last click, in some cases it's absolutely. It makes a lot of sense. We're driving towards straight revenue and growth and that's like perfect, we'll stick with that and we're good to go.

Dustin Howes:

Okay, so defining your KPIs is one of those first steps, and then we can work towards that with the client. That seems pretty appropriate.

Tom Rathbone:

It's like do you have one already? No, Do you? Which KPIs are we aligning to? What do you use to determine what is valuable to you, what is performant to you, and then find one from there? In many cases, it will still be last click. That's great.

Dustin Howes:

Gotcha, gotcha All right in the chat question of the day what is incrementality to you? And then Mr Sultan here said as close to a one word answer as you could possibly get for that really complicated question of layered attribution. Do you concur here, tom? Is that what incrementality means to you?

Tom Rathbone:

No, mainly because I'm not sure exactly what was meant by layered attribution. I definitely don't. When we look at our incrementality measurements, it is wholly separate from attribution. There is no, even technically. We start looking at each sale that happens regardless of who was attributed that sale or any credit towards it, and we don't even divide credit up. We look at every sale and we just look at the touchpoints associated with that and the timing throughout those. So for us they're separate things. We don't attribute a percentage of a value of a sale to a certain touchpoint which attribution.

Tom Rathbone:

more gets into DDA or linear or whatever touches more on that Gotcha.

Dustin Howes:

Okay, well, thanks for shaming in there, mr Sultan. Now I'm going to take a step back and go with our sponsor of the day, and that is one of these tools that I really believe in. Every affiliate manager out there needs a good CRM and tools to help them recruit partners. Buzzstream is one of those complete tools that I personally love using throughout the years. Their partner recruitment platform end to end solution enables you to discover partners, vet them, discover site metrics, find contact info, send outreach and manage your campaigns more effectively. Teams that use Buzzstream save huge amounts of time and mental bandwidth and, with Buzzstream's advanced CRM capabilities, growing relationships and managing your team is never at shore.

Dustin Howes:

Go check out Buzzstream for a free trial. They can do onboarding assistance and customer support for all their plans. Go to dustinhoundscom slash Buzzstream to find out more. Thank you, buzzstream, for helping out this. My addiction of podcasting Really appreciate you guys supporting this in this endeavor. Switching gears, let's get into the economics of affiliate, and this is something you're super passionate about. How do you approach the economics of what affiliate marketing is?

Tom Rathbone:

Yeah, definitely like. Rolls into a lot of our ethos here too, affiliates. Tricky in that the entire, all the economics, what you pay for, is based on what it is or what it's in performance, and that is that last click, that's a measurement for performance and that's what all the economics and the channel are aligned towards. And what we do is we do that, we do that with a lot of the other platforms, but we do that with a lot of the other platforms and that's what all the economics and the channel are aligned towards and what we see a lot of. And this might explain why we have a different approach to some different pieces of tech. On our side, we see a lot of brands demanding or requesting or desiring to have a different type of performance from the channel. That could be first click, it could be earlier funnel activity, whichever. And all the economics are on that last click perspective and all the publishers and like rightfully so they're optimized towards a last click. Why would they optimize towards something that don't get paid for?

Dustin Howes:

Okay.

Tom Rathbone:

So that friction for us like continues to persist. So something that we and maybe it's you know, maybe we're chasing windmills sometimes here we feel like like if we want something different from the channel, the economics of the channel need to more aligned to what that is if it's going to be a pay for performance channel. I think this is why we see a lot of things like really big media buys and flat fees and integration fees. That because some of the brands you know, content sites, whichever they may be, really involved in a lot of sales earlier in the funnel. We do see this in our incrementality index with content publishers, but they don't get credit for that many and they need to pay their bills as well. So for us, I think we need to, we need to continue as an industry to kind of look towards okay, we want the behavior isn't to change. The rewards for that behavior has to change with it as well, or else it's never going to happen and we're just going to, you know, beat our heads against the wall for another 10 years.

Dustin Howes:

I don't see that that happening. I mean, the future looks bright, we're headed in the right way and AI is absorbing some of that bandwidth that we have used to have to utilize to run relationships and we can focus on those relationships and this is going to get simpler. I don't know, in my opinion, like it's for the future, but I get what you're saying there. We've got somebody jumping in with a ton of questions. Really appreciate the questions. Let's go on to this one by one. How do we navigate attribution in a multi-channel and multi-device environment? Got any thoughts on that, Tom?

Tom Rathbone:

I actually just on a webinar earlier today where we talked about cross-sever tracking for a little bit, and it's super interesting because I feel like I don't know, if you remember this, it might have been like 2018 or 2019. Everybody talked about cross-sever tracking for like a year. It was everything for a while.

Tom Rathbone:

And we were like, oh no, we have to get this off of this. And everyone was pushing on the networks to have a solution for it, and the sky was falling and we all learned what deterministic cross-sever tracking meant, all that stuff. So, hi, tricia, I see you in the comments. She goes on that thing with me and, if you haven't seen it, I definitely have repeated a couple of lines I just said there.

Dustin Howes:

Beautiful.

Tom Rathbone:

I think we are in a tricky situation where yeah, privacy regulations continue to grow.

Tom Rathbone:

It gets harder and harder to track people across all the different devices, the different countries, the different IPs, gdpr, this and IDP that and brands have their own privacy regulations that their vendors need to adhere to. So, yeah, that's not getting any easier. And this is kind of what I mean when I'm like I don't want us to think that marketing data should be perfectly accurate all the time for every little thing that happens, because we're not going to get there anytime soon. Like, maybe AI can do a lot of that, but not if there's actual regulations against it, so we can't pick up some of these data points. It gets a little tricky. So I think for us, like it's about how can we use the data that's there productively and make smart decisions and just continue to move forward and not get caught in the weeds of trying to connect every last little dot. So is there any attribution model or system out there that is perfect and tracks everything? Somebody probably says it is, but I don't believe it.

Dustin Howes:

I've never found the perfect affiliate program set up in the right in the exact way. I mean. Companies are just scaling too fast for their own good. That's tough to keep up. Well, I really appreciate the questions here. Coming from the Sommie here, May I know if you ever encounter issues with cross-device attribution, so what strategies have you used to mitigate them?

Tom Rathbone:

Yeah, I mean for sure they exist. We can even see it. It depends on the issue causing it. We talked about earlier today and that thing with the PMA as well that platforms can interrupt a lot of that stuff. And are we going to try and circumvent a consent platform? Certainly not. That doesn't seem like a really good idea. So I think, using the tools that you have within the regulations that exist, doing the best you can to connect those dots so, yeah, some platforms are going to do a better job than others, but they're all going to have the same regulations. So it's about staying within those guidelines and finding the best measurement platform for it and then making sure that everything, all the data in, is really clean and that all the tags and everything that you implemented is implemented as correctly as you can. And then at that point, that's what you got Pragmatically, that's what you got to work with, and then you have to find a way to use that data as correctly as you can.

Dustin Howes:

Oh, great, great. And hey, trisha, since you're out there, make sure you drop a link to the PMA live event that you guys had earlier today. I'm happy to leave that in the comments section for others that are trying to learn here. So we've got a couple of more questions. Let's keep this rolling. I really appreciate when folks are out there asking these questions. How do we ensure compliance with data privacy regulations while effectively tracking attributions? Great questions here, man.

Tom Rathbone:

I mean, like from the, any of any of the platforms that exist out there for tracking attribution, whether it's an actual affiliate network or it's something like GA4 or triple whale or something like that. They have their own, their own way of tracking these things and they're going to be compliant with these regulatory bodies. That's their requirement to. If you're a brand, you will do an info sec process with them to ensure that. Then at that point you would have to, you would almost have to try and circumvent some of that stuff to insert PII into there or something like that.

Tom Rathbone:

So I don't I don't think that, like, ensuring compliance is really an issue for most people, unless you're building your own platform to track those users, in which case, yeah, you got to be super, hyper aware and hyper careful. Everyone else, like for us, if we're going to pull data down, we need to make sure that we are, you know, aligning to the requirements or how we store and process that data and how we don't process things that are PII, like an order ID if you're in Europe, which is really challenging, but just making sure you're taking all those boxes and understanding those regulations. But, again, like those regulations, those are your ceiling, you know if you want to get past them like you have to be deliberately trying to do that.

Dustin Howes:

Yeah, you know what I've noticed. There are some affiliate platforms where every all that information is on visible from the merchant side, from the brand side, from the affiliate manager side. You can see the order numbers on your end and where that sale is coming from and some of that information, but rarely do you see it on the affiliate side. But I am seeing some platforms that are showing a little bit of PII for the sale that happened and is that a good practice? Like, I've always questioned whether or not the affiliate I mean, I'm all about transparency, but I've always questioned the or had a little bit of concern of showing that information like an email address or a name to that affiliate that sent that sale over.

Tom Rathbone:

Yeah, I mean that like that yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. That would not be anywhere close to compliant with most regulations out there and as a platform Like that's not gonna shift back in your favor. I can't GDP. I can a full, full, 360 or I guess a 180 and GDP are and come back to saying like, oh, it's cool to share this stuff. I mean, under under GDP are regulations and order ID is PII, because you can join that with another piece of information and then, figure out who the person is.

Tom Rathbone:

So I don't think that's a great process and I would I would not like Live it this way. If one of our clients was on a platform that did that, we would probably recommend we don't. We either turn those settings off or don't work with a platform like that because it's so anti. It's moving the wrong direction against a regulatory environment which, yes, it's a pain the butt sometimes if you're a technologist, but really like it's in. It's there for a good reason.

Dustin Howes:

Fair enough, all right, trisha dropped the the link to the webinar today. Happy to do that for the PMA org who absolutely love being a part of, and Thanks for doing that, trisha. All right, switching gears. A little bit about Incentives for the affiliate channel. How, how do you guys motivate partners when you guys are out there Recruiting them for some of your brands that you're working with?

Tom Rathbone:

Yeah, it's, it's it's tricky. I think I definitely I'm very based on the type of the partner bit of a partner, like we have your classic levers for, you know, commission rate changes. We we have, like we're an agency, so we do have some agency effects, levers that we can pull. We can kind of bundle together, publish our brands and be like, okay, we want to bring in, like, hey, these four brands, launch all those and trying, trying to use some of that kind of might that comes with having multiple brands or an umbrella like 80 or 90 or so, and that's that's pretty cool. But we definitely like there is there continues to be to my earlier points a lot of requests for paid placements and integration fees and stuff and they are getting very expensive sometimes. Sometimes they the numbers we get back are we wouldn't even bring it to a client and be like we're not gonna do that.

Dustin Howes:

Yeah.

Tom Rathbone:

So for us, like we're always trying to find a way to do that differently, can we increase the CPA, can we bundle it with other partners, can we run it for a longer period of time, can we have some guarantee payouts or something like that, or yeah, or floors or something like that? So it's, it's gonna have to be just like a creative approach to how we can kind of manage that money and our clients we have, because for us, like our purview, like clients come to us on a, on what they think is going to be a pay for performance Channel, so we need to try and align into that as much as possible. Besides that, we'll do some things that will bring in partners for a lot of lunch and learns. If you, if you are a publisher out there, you have a cool solution, you have had a lunch and learn with us. Please reach out to to me at partner centric. I'll set you up.

Tom Rathbone:

We do a lot of those things with with our team, so we can see who's out there and you know you can get access to a lot of account managers, a lot of different brands and kind of pitch your, your value prop. Then I'm sure I'm missing some things. There's the first things to come to mind now.

Dustin Howes:

Oh, hybrids are all all the rage right now and Influencers and publishers know their worth and and sometimes they may be too expensive for bringing it back to your clients, but Oftentimes it's worth a shot, at least to have a conversation out there. Yeah, all right. Um, switching gears again. Marketing trends out there, affiliate marketing trends what are you seeing out there?

Tom Rathbone:

Yeah, plenty of things.

Dustin Howes:

There's always a new.

Tom Rathbone:

There's always a current trend, I think, on Something to always be concerned about or something that's really like. Like we talked about at one point, it was across the vice-tracking trend. Most recently, we had a lot of issues or a lot of our clients having a really hard time with the GA4 transition and and just transitioning to DDA. I think we saw a lot of you know Networks and platforms putting out pieces on the you know how DDA is different or maybe it's rewarding affiliate Poorly or whichever, and motivations around that. There's a lot of to do there. But fortunately we're coming to the other side of that one. I think we're in all like kind of getting our feet underneath us. The GA4, which is, which is a welcome change.

Tom Rathbone:

We do see like I don't even know the trend that there's always like. This is the beauty of affiliate marketing there's always someone new coming in right, there's a new Model. So, you know, last year we saw a big uptick in like CTV. That's excellent. Clo continues to kind of Cardi Dahl first continues to grow as well. We see some some trends around that. I think the overall trend for us continues to be a push on measuring value Value a bit differently. Okay, this tools are coming there. A lot of platforms put out Like we're not the only ones doing this type of work, so we're seeing that elsewhere as well. So I think that trend continues continues to move in a positive direction as well. I think it's just like a there's a constant change of flux, a constant stage of flux in the affiliate industry, but also a constant stage of like Improvement, optimization and just overall positive change, which was great.

Dustin Howes:

Awesome and we still got questions flooding in. Our guy just keeps on dropping them in here. He's still a bit curious. How do we measure the effectiveness the attribution model, and how often Should we reassess or optimize it?

Tom Rathbone:

I Think, yeah, attribution models for me, I think are very much and again, like there's some I'm sure there's people building some, some great attribution models out there, some really smart people, much smarter than me, but I very much view them as something that should be. They're kind of transitory in a way. Like what are you current? What are your current strategies with your, your brand? Like you're as a merchant, what are you trying to get out of of this stage of growth? Not even the affiliate channel, like, are you brand new and you're looking. You have a lot of funding so you're just looking to get your brand out there and you want to compete top of funnel.

Tom Rathbone:

Are you at a point now where you feel like you can go head to head with some other brands, your real challenger brand? You want to be more active during your consideration phase, or maybe you just got to pour some gas on the fire and get some sales going and optimize auto less click, and I think you don't want to. You don't want to change those things all the time, Cause if you're going to know a lot of much downstream, it's a little problematic. It can, it can be a bit much, but I don't, I don't know if there's a way to say this is to test if that's the right attribution model for you, necessarily. Besides, like here's the strategy, here's the model we want to use. Did we achieve that strategy or not using that model?

Dustin Howes:

All right, I've got the answer. It's whatever makes the affiliate manager look the best. How about that?

Tom Rathbone:

No, it's a good one as well. Yeah, yeah, you said it, but I'll quote you on it.

Dustin Howes:

I'm joking. Of course this is a team effort. You've got to keep all of your marketing channels in mind when you're you're doing some kind of dramatic change in your attribution model here. But you know it's always good to look good here, all right? Well, as we wind down here, it is time for you to defend your post here. Tom, I've got something from looks like five years ago. Thanks for featuring us Glassdoor. We love remote work. You guys touted as a 100% remote company. Is that still true today for what you guys are doing?

Tom Rathbone:

Yeah, that there was a period of time. So when I first started with shop consulting, way back in the day, there was a period of time we had an office above a garage, behind a house Very, very cliche origin story and but Stephanie our CEO, she was always remote. And then that office kind of we, we outgrew, you're hiring much people and then we did reincorporate in Austin. For a while we had a headquarters in Austin, yeah, but we shut that down when Stephanie became a CEO. She had brought that down. That was before then. Yeah, it was probably like 2014-ish. We've been purely remote ever since. We don't have an actual office to go into. We've got a PO Box.

Dustin Howes:

Gotcha, and is your guys philosophy to get the best talent in the world by going with that strategy? Is that the main objective of doing fully remote?

Tom Rathbone:

I don't, I think. I think we're fully remote now because it works for us.

Dustin Howes:

Okay.

Tom Rathbone:

I think we went fully remote. There was a time we did a hybrid approach. We had an office and half remote. We found that to be really problematic. We had two disparate cultures. You can have an in-office thing at the time too, brooke was working that office so you have like an in-office staff and like their culture, then like the remote culture, and it's totally different. And once you're in remote, like that's been our culture and that's how we roll and that works for us, I'm like I don't think there's any some. There's not like some broad strategy, like we do this because we get the best talent, we do it because it works for us. Okay.

Dustin Howes:

And we're going to keep doing it as long as it keeps working for us. Fabulous, All right. All right, Tom. How do people connect with you?

Tom Rathbone:

Yeah, linkedin is great. You can, or you can just email me, tom, at partnercentriccom. Those are actually the only two ways to contact me, that's it.

Dustin Howes:

You don't do the socials, so that's what you're saying.

Tom Rathbone:

I do do socials, but not not to the extent that I need to defend my social media posts. So I'm insulated from people like you who are out here trying to shame me for some angsty posts from 2010.

Dustin Howes:

I did my best. I did my best research trying to find some dirty but good.

Tom Rathbone:

All you got was remote work.

Dustin Howes:

That's it. It's too clean, tom, too clean, all right. So my lesson of the day here probably has to be defining your true KPIs first with your clients. So, whatever that is, don't be changing the attribution model from the status quo and until you define your KPIs first, I think that's a great takeaway for those out there that might be considering a different kind of attribution model. All right, my guests on Thursday. It's going to be a new format. I will not even be the host. Kristen Evans is going to be guest hosting and she's going to bring on Jessica Bishop to have a new segment called that's what she said. So tune in on Thursday 12.15 to see that live. And for those of you that want my affiliate manager checklist that I go through, go to DustinHowes. com slash checklist or you can hit this QR code here and get instant access. Tom, really appreciate you being here and dropping all this insight on incrementality today. Thanks for your time, man. Yeah, it was fun.

Tom Rathbone:

Thanks for having me. Thanks for having me.

Dustin Howes:

All right, folks, keep on recruiting and we'll see you out there.

Understanding Incrementality in Affiliate Marketing
Attribution Models and Affiliate Channel Economics
Attribution and Data Privacy Challenges
Affiliate Platform Transparency and Incentives
New Format With Guest Host