Takeaways from PI Live – Affiliate Marketing, Influencers, Facebook Ads, Growth Hacking (episode 126-5)

I’m really pleased to be bringing you another Takeaways episode

Each year I try to go one non-eCommerce focused event to broaden my knowledge.

This year it was last week’s PI Live in London – the name doesn’t give you many clues! So what was it about?

Influencer Marketing, Affiliate Marketing, and some advertising sessions too.

So yup – not that far from eCommerce, but it gave me a chance to get deep into a few areas I don’t often do a lot of research around.

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I have updates coming on:

  • Affiliates
  • Influencer marketing tips
  • Facebook Ads tips
  • Growth Hacking

And stick around to that last one as I’ll be doing a summary of what I thought was the best session of the whole conference. LOTS of value in that one.

Before we dive in You can get my whole script for this show (think of it as a blog post) at eCommerceMasterPlan.com/126-5 – typos, links, a couple of pictures and all!


About 10 years ago affiliates was one of my go to marketing methods for an eCommerce business – alongside email, and Google Adwords.

Nowadays I see it as a specialist option – if it’s the right way for a particular brand to grow. Maybe they’re big on influencers and some want a kick back, maybe their customers like a voucher code, or it’s a product that there’s a lot of great affiliates creating related traffic.

In case you’re not sure what it is – here’s a quick explanation.

Affiliate marketing in eCommerce means becoming a client of one of the affiliate networks (Webgains, AWIN, Pepperjam etc). Then using their platform to incentivise other business to send traffic that buys to your website, in return for a commission on the sales.

So it’s a marketing method where you don’t pay until you sell, but it requires a lot of active management if you’re going to get it to work well for you.

One of my main aims attending the conference was to make sure I’m still up to date.

So here’s what I learnt.

I’m still up to date

Not much has actually changed in Affiliates over the last 5 years. The big issues remain:

1.       Attribution

2.       Management

But it did feel like things had grown up a bit – those I heard from and spoke to were very much talking about affiliates from the perspective of structuring account incentives, and finding and managing the right affiliates to hit the objectives. That is streets ahead of a few years ago when we talked about that –but very few companies were doing it. It was great to know it’s ‘grown up’!

Let me quickly explain those 2 big issues.

Attribution was the number one reason affiliates fell off my no-brainer marketing method list. Clients being uncomfortable about whether or not the affiliate channel was bringing them new customers, or just a way for someone else (the affiliate) to get a cut of an order that was mainly brought about by the client’s existing marketing activity.

Seeing affiliate sales spike on the same day as a catalogue landed, or an email went out didn’t help this perception.

It’s still a huge issue – but it seems like the tracking tech has improved, and that now accounts are being set up to take this into account to incentivise affiliates to drive incremental sales. So lower commission rates for the affiliates that drive poor new customer acquisition, and higher rates for those that being in new customers.

AND closer relationships between merchants and affiliates to make all this possible.

Hence, better affiliate management and that being the norm rather than the exception is a great development.

It’s still not a good idea to just launch an affiliate program, and leave it to its own devices!

If this quick dive into affiliates has piqued your interest then let me know, as I’m thinking of bringing you some more affiliate content in the new year.

Before we move on I have 2 great resources to recommend:

1.       The AWIN Report 2017 – fantastic report explaining the international affiliate marketplace, and the key developments and opportunities in the industry. You can get it for free (email sign up required) on the AWIN website

2.       Webgains have built a free Affiliate Marketing Training Course! So if you want to use affiliates in your business – that would be a great place to start your research.

Influencer Marketing tips

Which brings us on nicely to Influencers

You’ll have heard me & my guests talk about influencer marketing on the podcast many times before, and I have to be honest, if the Influencer Marketing Show wasn’t part of PI Live I probably wouldn’t have gone – but the prospect of getting deep into affiliates AND Influencer marketing was too good to miss.

Not least because I believe these two are intrinsically linked.

Given influencer marketing is about identifying online influencers that it would be great if they would mention your business; and that usually you have to incentivise them… isn’t that just a kind of affiliate marketing??

Admittedly some influencers will do it for product, and most want a flat fee, but commission on sales is also a variable incentive mechanism.

(you can hear Dan Adler of Wink Beds discuss how he used this approach to get his business to over $1m in podcast episode 71)

I went to some great panels and sessions about this, which included speakers from merchant side, affiliate network side, influencer management, and influencers themselves.

From those discussions there were clearly 3 things you need to get right in any influencer campaign:

–          Find – identify the influencers you’d like to work with

–          Recruit – make contact, and persuade them to work with you (including pricing)

–          The brief – wow! Was this part important.

Here’s the tips I picked up on each.


Before you even start looking, you need to work out what you want.

Do you want the mega-influencer? A Kardashian or premier league football star? Or do you want a micro-influencer.

There was a lot of discussion about the latter:

–          A mirco influencer has a much smaller following – maybe 500, 5,000, 10,000

–          BUT a much more engaged, more connected audience – thus the response should be greater

Clearly they are going to be cheaper too – however, there’s going be more work involved as you have to maintain many more relationships, and educate these micro influencers at the same time.

Given that is all about transferring the trust someone feels in someone they follow online, to your brand – it seems a great idea to work with those who have the most trusting followers.

Whatever size of influencer you’re looking for it’s a case of decide on your campaign first, then identify the influencers with the best fit for that creative, and objective.

And be ready to test – so on the first campaign work with a range of say 20, work out who worked best and optimise your plans accordingly.

There are some tools to find them / profile them once you have them:


Stats on why influencers agree to work with a brand:

–          34% already use the product

–          25% compensation

–          25% strong personal affinity

–          4% size of the brand

When you first reach out to them give them the information they need:

–          Some background on you – so they can work out if you’re a good fit

–          Tell them WHY you think they’d be a good fit (yes, you need to have a reason!)

–          Be clear and open and honest

–          Treat that first contact as opening up a dialogue – so it’s “let me know what you think” not “call me if it’s a yes”

How much to pay? The biggy.

No one really said a price point. So I’d suggest approaching it from two angles (i) how much would the coverage / impact be worth to you? Or (ii) find out what your chosen influencer’s rate is and see what you can do.

Make sure whatever you agree on works for both of you.

Be fair. Remember – you are building a relationship with them, so be honest and trust worthy.

One of the travel influencers shared a story of being taken on a trip by a travel company, along with another 10 of their influencers. All went swimmingly, until they realised that 2 of them were being PAID to be on the trip, and the other 9 weren’t – what a way to destroy the desire of the 8 to great content about your hotels and destination, and what a great way to make your best influencers (assuming that’s why you were paying them!) feel really awkward.

Rachel Hawkes of the TUI Group discussed how they found (even when treating the influencers fairly) that taking influencers who all have following in the same region on the same trip caused competitive issues – so they now take influencers from a range of different countries on their trips.

The brief

One of the really interesting things – is that brands / merchants are seeing their influencers as an essential part of their content creation strategy. And that the influencers love this.

Often a brand might ask an influencer to create multiple photo options for that Instagram post, the brand picks one or two that they’re happy for the influencer to use THEN the brand use the others in their own Instagram (and other) marketing activity – referencing the creator in the post.

So there was a lot of discussion about the best results coming from very open briefs that enable the influencer to play the part of the creative director, whilst still hitting the brief.

The more prescriptive the brief (eg you must mention x,y,z don’t use this word, background can’t be blue etc etc) the less interested the influencer is in working with a brand.

And be ready for them to come back and ask if they tweak it a bit too.

The caveat to this is that in certain sectors it’s essential to be prescriptive due to advertising legislation. For example Joseph Harper, the Social Lead at Kellogg’s (yes, breakfast cereals) was explaining that there is a lot of information he has to make sure his influencers are aware of and laws they are adhering to, or Kellogg’s could get into a LOT of trouble.

And at the celebrity end – often you will have to write the copy for them!

To make the most of the influencer activity there is clearly a lot of planning that needs to go into it. As to make the most of it involves re-suing the content across the marketing activity of the merchant. So the brief needs to make it clear this will be happening (a bonus for the influencer?) and lead to the creation of content that CAN be used in multiple channels, beyond the simple retweet.

Plus make sure the theme of the brief continues onto your website – if you’ve got mummy bloggers to write about you, make sure the landing page isn’t all about power dressing.

One last thing on Influencer marketing – if you’re going to get in on this, then make sure you’re clear on the legal requirements of signposting before you go ahead. That means – do you need to flag that the content is sponsored? And if so how.

AND don’t do this as a side project, it needs to be core to what you’re doing if you’re going to get the benefits. It is not a quick box to tick off.

Facebook Ads Tips

There 2 great sessions that touched on Facebook Ads:

Abi Latham of Ayima covering “Why your Facebook Ad Spend is going up in Smoke” and Gabriella Barbosa of Driftrock covering “People-based Marketing, Why it will transform your strategy this year”.

Tips from across the 2 as follows, these might not be news to you, but I think they bear repeating!

  • People-based marketing – that’s using email lists uploaded to ad platforms rather than using cookies – it’s important because of the increasing usage of cookie blockers.
  • Test test test your audiences – get really granular with your ad set set ups – one interest, segmented by demographics / location / device etc.
  • When creating lookalikes – start with a niche audience – you’re best customers for example
  • Test different ad formats – image / video / carousel

Growth Hacking

That focus on testing brings us nicely to GROWTH HACKING!

For me the standout session of the event.

If you’d like me to cover more on this next year – let me know.

The speaker was David Arnoux, Talking about “The Recipe for a Growth Marketing Mindset”. Head of Growth at Growth Tribe, who train companies in how to adopt a growth hacking process.

That’s partly why I liked it, this wasn’t just some guy getting up and sharing a load of cool hacks – rather this was someone explaining how and why growth hacking works.

The starting point is to decide which part of your business needs hacking (FYI working out which stage of the customer masterplan model from Customer Persuasion that you’re weakest at would be a great place to start).

Brainstorm a lot of ways you could improve that problem.

Get the team to rate the ideas – on whatever criteria works for you – there’s going to be multiple ratings.

Then test the best – test one thing at a time, test it for 2 weeks – roll out the winners.

And to keep everyone focused on the task in hand – set up a library to store other leads in until you’re focus on something to which they are relevant. That could be a shared google doc, or a notebook in the office – but if you see a cool idea – add it to the library until it’s relevant.

Video on how to start

That’s the basic process – then David shared some top tips and tools:

  • Growth Tribe have a growth hacking bible you can download 
  • LinkedIn is a great place to growth hack right now because their algorithm is weak and easily manipulated
  • YouTube is a great way to quickly rank high in SEO
  • Crystal Knows is a LinkedIn plugin that will tell you the personality of the people you’re contacting and how best to communicate with them (more B2B that one!), it has an API that can feed into your CRM
  • Articoolo is an AI article writing tool! For very quick blog posts.
  • If customer acquisition is where your problems lie – get that first impression right. Do a 5 second test on your ad copy, landing pages, etc
    • Show them the item for 5 seconds
    • Ask What does this website offer? Why is it special?
    • Tweak until the right answer comes back [hearing this advice again and again]
  • They have a youtube channel of great ideas “Growth Tribe You Tube”!
  • Their favourite tools are updated and shared every 6 months here 

So there’s my updates.

If you want to get stuck into some more conference style content in the meantime then my eCommerce MasterPlan Virtual Summit remains open to registrations (it’s free, and you’ll have access until at least Sept 2018!) – find that here

Make sure you tune in next week as there’ll be two episodes for you (again I know!):

–          My interview with Craig Wolfe who runs the fascinating business Celebriducks – yup designing and selling rubber ducks…

–          My last (planned) takeaways episode of 2017 – from the DCA Autumn Conference as I record I’ve already attended – so I know that will be worth a listen.

Have a great week everyone and Keep Optimising!