Rakuten Marketing’s 2019 DealMaker Scottsdale event brought in some incredible speakers with amazing insights. The audience left the Scottsdale audience with new, thoughtful strategies that would enhance their personal and professional lives. As a refresher to those in attendance and as an opportunity to learn for those who could not be there, we’ve combined some of the top marketing strategies and insights from the industry experts that keynoted the event.
Going Above the Surface – What it Takes to Build a Worldwide Affiliate Program
Microsoft’s US Affiliate Marketing Lead, Juan Zabisky, paved the way in offering the audience a fresh perspective in the world of marketing as the first keynote of the day. The Microsoft affiliate program offers some of the best commission rates in the industry and has tools for creating, promoting and tracking campaigns to maximize revenue. Brands looking to expand globally can take note of the success Juan has seen with leading Microsoft’s affiliate program beyond its US borders.
Juan began by first mentioning Microsoft’s “North Star” – to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. This North Star is not only what drives his team’s marketing strategies, it’s also what drives his team. Juan was proud to tell the audience that he’s surrounded by technology-passionate individuals all dedicated to their company’s North Star. This team of 20 affiliate managers across the globe, composing of 18 different nationalities that speak more than 14 languages, all work together in taking the following steps to make a successful global affiliate program:
- Define Success: Clearly define what success looks like across all teams and ensure goals are efficient and scalable.
- Communicate Sufficiently: With a global team, it’s crucial to have clear, concise communication on where you want to go and how you want to get there.
- Plan & Execute: This step Juan suggests brands act tactfully to ensure smooth sailing.
- Be Persistent: No matter who you’re working with or what you’re doing, be sure to remain persistent in the approach and execution. This tactic ensures the brand remains trustworthy and reliable, which is extremely important in the affiliate world.
- Listen: Listening should be a part of the everyday routine. To customers, partners, news, etc., listening will help brands understand what’s going on outside their own world. To listen is to know what competitors are doing and how a brand can adjust to compete.
- Drive Innovation: Obviously an important step in marketing is to continue innovation. Take what was learned, adapt and execute new ways to improve the process and experience. This will take an affiliate program and its affiliates to the next level.
With these steps in mind, Juan gave more insight on how to transform an affiliate program. The following are tactics that have helped Microsoft capitalize on its innovation:
- Test and Learn: Juan states that knowing how to extract learnings from conducted tests and apply it in a way that will enhance the consumer experience is the most important step in being an innovative brand.
- Break Barriers: Internally and externally, it’s important to break the communication barriers to have solid, transparent teams. Take the necessary steps to engage and communicate with each other to fully understand the team and industry.
- Fail: Failing should be a big part of a brand’s innovation strategy. Things don’t always work out the way they’re supposed to; however, a brand can almost learn more from its failings than successes. Failure gives a brand an opportunity to pick back up and take a new direction. “You’ll fail again, but you’ll fail differently,” stated Juan.
- Use Data: Using data isn’t always simple, especially in the affiliate landscape, but that’s why partnering with a data-savvy team (like Rakuten Marketing) can be extremely beneficial. Juan talked about how Rakuten Marketing challenges Microsoft Affiliate to keep looking at data and utilize it to grow the program even further.
- Think Outside the Circle: This tip is about doing more than simply tracking clicks and conversions. It’s about creating emotional connections. The affiliate landscape gives the opportunity to bring a brand to the people. Yes, Microsoft has great products, but it’s more about delivering a great experience. Without a positive experience, a brand cannot be successful.
- Results: Through these steps, measuring results is key. Once measuring results, a brand can return to the beginning step of “Test and Learn” with a new idea and execution strategy.
Building Resilience by Turning Obstacles into Opportunities
During our second keynote, Spartan’s CEO & Founder, Joe De Sena, and CMO, Carola Jain, honed in on the importance of authenticity. With Spartan being the largest obstacle race and endurance brand in the world, it was exciting to hear from a brand who has had such great brand awareness. Not only is their strategy something to admire, but the way the brand has continued its growth and created brand advocacy is an example all marketers can learn from.
Carola Jain began by relating her journey of becoming the brand’s CMO to the same feeling many racers have when first joining the Spartan tribe. Many people question if joining Spartan is something accomplishable, and Carola felt the same about her role as Spartan’s CMO. Would she really bring value to the brand? What exactly can she do for Spartan to make it even more of a success? However, once Carola accepted the role, she quickly realized exactly what Spartan stood for and exactly what made the brand marketable – authenticity.
Spartan is a “story-generating machine,” as Carola put it, “which makes for a great advertising opportunity. These authentic stories from the lives of its followers are all Spartan needs to drive its brand home.” Smart marketing is leveraging what the brand already is and stands for. For Spartan, it’s about determination, perseverance and accomplishment. Spartan has a way of rapidly growing a tribe, and that’s something extremely marketable. There are countless stories of how Spartan has brought people together; happily married couples who met through joining the race, people building new, positive friendships with someone who is likeminded in determination and success, etc. These genuine connections create a natural positive user experience.
The success factor for Spartan’s marketing, Carola pointed out, is that it understands its consumers. Knowing why someone makes a purchase decision is critical to marketing success. If a consumer is basing their decision on just price and taking an “apples-to-apples” shopping approach, discovering how to connect on an emotional level to a consumer will be what makes the difference. Spartan is a great example of a brand that connects on this level, making all its participants feel like they are experiencing an individual transformation.
Spartan has something in its brand for everyone, and that may not be a marketing strategy that all brands can relate to. Some brands’ audiences may be much smaller and more defined. However, it’s still important to fully understand the desired audience and create emotional experiences for them. Carola speaks to how proper marketing tools and data have helped Spartan better understand the consumer segmentation and how to properly engage. Utilizing marketing tools like social, content, influencer marketing, etc. makes it possible to reach all segmented parts of a brand’s audience.
Brands looking to “Spartan Up” and become strong, accomplished brands in their vertical should take note of Spartan’s strategy. Their approach will help brands to create genuine, emotional connections with consumers that will leave long-lasting impressions and results.
For more marketing strategies and insights, be sure to download our recent 2019 Influencer Marketing Global Survey report. This report reveals consumer and marketer-driven data on how influencer marketing is still impacting shopping behavior and the overall digital marketing industry.