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Interview with Chris Tradgett – A Deep Dive in Affiliate Marketing

June 22, 2021

6 Min Read
Christ Tradgett Affiliate Marketer

Hi everyone, Welcome to another interview in our influencer interview series.

In this addition to our Cloudways Interview Series, we are featuring Chris Tradgett. Chris is also the co-founder of Publish Discovery, a company that helps create artificial intelligence, marketing analytics, and machine learning for affiliates to help them grow stronger while paving their way in the affiliate industry. Moreover, Chris is the Board of Director of the Performance Marketing Association. With his 18 years of experience in the affiliate industry, Chris has also been the founding member of buy.at affiliate network which was sold to AOL, and then Awin.

The all-rounder is here to share his insights with us!

Cloudways: Hi Chris, thank you for joining us today. Let’s start with your background and journey as an Affiliate Recruitment influencer. How and why did you first get into the affiliate marketing industry?

Chris: Glad to be here, Faiza, and thank you very much for the opportunity!

I first came across affiliate marketing in 2001 as a user of ‘buy.at’ which started as a fundraising platform for charities using affiliate links. I joined the team there not long after and helped turn that into an affiliate network.

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Cloudways: From being the founding member of buy.at affiliate network to the co-founder of affiliate intelligence provider Publisher Discovery and Cloudfind, can you describe your affiliate entrepreneurship journey?

Chris: Launching buy.at as a new network meant that as a small team of 5, we had to be adaptable and agile covering multiple roles. I myself was covering marketing and merchant sales as well as some servicing of existing business relationships at the start. During the growth to a multi-million dollar network, roles changed as we built a team of over 70.

That kind of change management happened again during my time at Linkdex

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Cloudways: Other than what has already been mentioned, would you like to share your journey of 18 years in the affiliate marketing industry? How did you help advertisers find their most relevant new affiliate partners?

Chris: The key reason behind the development of Publisher Discovery over the last few years has been to simplify the onerous task of finding relevant affiliate partners, one of the toughest parts of the job. Our platform analyzes the relationships between the affiliates and the advertisers.

There are many off-the shelf-tools that affiliates can use to understand their own data sets more effectively, helping them to better-target their activity as a result.

Cloudways: What are the key mistakes affiliates make while communicating with their potential customers? What are the relationship-building tactics they need to focus on?

Chris: The most common mistake is treating affiliate partners like any other advertising placement. The key difference with affiliate marketing is that it is much more a relationship business.

We still encounter affiliate managers wanting big lists of email addresses to blast out a standard recruiting message to the whole list to recruit them. That usually disappears into an un-tended inbox and understandably gets 2% response or even less!

We strongly recommend that you do your research and understand what’s in it for the affiliate; why would they divert from what they’re currently doing to promote a new untried advertiser??

Cloudways: Being the CMO at Publisher Discovery and PMA Board of Directors 2021, what advice would you like to give to the aspiring and amateur affiliates?

Chris: For a publisher looking to monetize their website with affiliate links, the key is to find the right advertiser that complements your website or blog. That way the ad or link makes sense to the reader and will convert to sales more readily.

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Cloudways: Since the emergence of COVID-19, what have you seen that has drastically changed the way affiliates operate as compared to the pre-COVID-19 strategies of affiliates?

Chris: The biggest change during 2020 was the depression of marketing budgets in display and non-performance-based advertising. The affiliate model, being entirely performance-based, benefited as brands diverted attention away from it. Most affiliate networks reported an influx of influencers and other traditional publishers to link using the affiliate model. That has meant that the channel proved itself comprehensively – and those new partnerships have continued.

Cloudways: What are the unutilized/missing opportunities you see that can be availed by affiliates even now?

Chris: There is a huge opportunity in the large numbers of SME entrants to an affiliate. Adam Ross of Awin shared that they were launching 40 new programs every day during 2020 – and that has continued. Even smaller or mid-sized affiliates can become very important partners to the right advertiser.

Cloudways: The traditional mass media (e.g., TV, OOH ads, etc.) aren’t as performance-focused as affiliate marketing is. Do you think the new affiliates are utilizing the performance key well?

Chris: The last year saw a big shift in focus with many brands slashing mainstream advertising budgets and concentrating on performance models. That has not reverted during 2021, and many influencers and mainstream media have followed and moved towards affiliates, be it bloggers, YouTubers, or performance-based marketers, to monetize their properties. That is a trend that is set to continue and I don’t see it reverting – programmatic is having a tough time of it!

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Cloudways: You have witnessed the issues of affiliates in the web hosting industry firsthand. What are the mistakes affiliates make while promoting a web or cloud hosting provider?

Chris:  Many new affiliates promoting hosting make the mistake of being to generalist and trying to simplify their content. The audience for hosting information is usually highly technical, so dumbing down the detail on issues like Cpanel or shared servers will get little resonance with readers.

Conversely, for those aiming at the blogger audience, too technical a review can confuse or turn the readers off. So know your audience – and make sure the content and links are relevant and at the right level.

Cloudways: How has the affiliate industry dynamics changed in the past two decades?

Chris: Back in 2003 we were pretty much inventing the industry ‘on the hoof’ – working out commission levels, promotional styles, and the rest of – while perfecting tracking and commercials.

The industry has developed and matured hugely, giving the ability to manage various processes within the affiliate tracking umbrella – covering brand protection and attribution modeling. The publisher base has also matured and now encompasses the high conversion coupon and cashback sites, niche content sites, and the diverse audiences of bloggers/influencers. With the growth of technology affiliates such as Envolve and Revlifter, adding tech services on a CPA has extended the ‘affiliate’ model to cover so much more.

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Cloudways: What is the key ingredient of a successful affiliate marketing model for a performance marketer?

Chris: There’s no single answer as success will be built differently in every type of market – both vertical and geo. What works best for a fashion program may well be a totally different picture for web hosting!

As a simple rule to launch a new program in any sector, analyze what your immediate competitors are doing in the affiliate space. Use a tool like Publisher Discovery to discover which affiliate sites they are featured on and work from there. And don’t forget to treat these as relationships that need input – affiliate is not a ‘set and forgets’ way of working. It takes work.

Cloudways: What advice would you like to give to affiliate marketing pros who are looking for ways to pace up their performance?

Chris: I’m not the one to give publishers specific advice, but for all involved in affiliate, the key ingredient to any successful business is communication and consistency. It’s still very much a people business so making sure that your keeping in touch with news and ideas is core.

Cloudways: Let’s step away from work. What do you do to relax and unwind?

Chris: My spare time is all a bit arty – I paint and draw a bit, but my real love is singing with my chamber choir; anything from Monteverdi and Tallis through to Whitacre and Ola Gjelo.

Cloudways: We would love to see how your workstation looks. Would you like to share a picture?

Chris Tradgett - Work Station

Cloudways: Thank you, Chris, for taking out your time. Lastly, who would you recommend we interview next?

Chris: I’d probably recommend Dustin Howes, Chloe Thomas, or Jim Banks

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Faiza Ismail

Faiza Ismail is a Digital Marketer and handles affiliate partnerships at Cloudways - A Managed Cloud Hosting Platform. She has an extensive history of working in various facets of Digital Marketing, Community Management, and Corporate Communication. She loves to play chess. Get in touch with her at [email protected]

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