CrakRevenue is one of the most interesting CPA networks in the industry. They have often been innovators, forging a different path, whether it has been with their custom marketing platform for affiliates, or their focus on being the best network for offers targeted at men. One of the visionaries in the company is their VP of Business Development & Marketing, Olivier Bourque, who always has a fresh slant on things. We sat down with him recently to discuss how the pandemic is affecting affiliate marketing; how data can help companies grow; and why having fewer, better customers is the way to thrive.
Blue Book: This year has been a challenge for everyone. We have seen the pandemic and various degrees of lock-down causing big shifts in spending patterns and behavior. Has it resulted in new opportunities for CPA networks such as CrakRevenue?
Olivier Bourque: The obvious change is that people don’t want to visit physical locations unless they have to. People are risk averse, and that’s especially true when they are sick or in need of medical attention. One of the biggest changes we have seen is the huge uptick in online medical consultations conducted via video. The pandemic accelerated the trend, but now it is here to stay as both doctors and patients have realized how much time can be saved, which of course means that money is saved too. As a result, governments are rapidly changing their regulations to enable online consultations in more circumstances, and hundreds of different drugs can now be legally prescribed remotely.
This is a big opportunity for performance marketing. Video consultations and prescriptions are often facilitated by mobile apps, which means potential app installs and commission on revenues. It’s a whole new field that is opening up at this very moment.
BB: How about you are doing business as a network? Do you see changes in the way you now approach customers?
OB: There’s definitely a change. I would describe it as a move towards deeper, more sustainable customer relationships. That applies at the network-client level, and also at the advertiser-consumer level. Our view is that longer-lasting relationships are more profitable and more rewarding for all concerned.
Take our own business as an example. Until recently, 90% of our revenue came from pay-per-lead. In that model, our only goal, and that of our affiliates, was to collect email addresses. We would pass the leads to the clients and then it was up to them to monetize them. We had no relationship with the consumer at all, and our relationship with the advertisers was on a fairly shallow, transactional basis.
In the last two years this has shifted dramatically. We have deepened our relationships with advertisers, and we are having very different conversations with them. What has emerged is a move to a more interesting, more creative approach, in which we as a network are able to be much more transparent with the client and this allows the interests of both parties to be aligned. By building closer relationships with clients and helping them to focus on their relationships with their customers, we have been able to zero in on those offers that are truly profitable and, just as important, sustainable in the medium-term.
BB: What does that mean in terms of scalability and how many clients you are dealing with?
OB: The change in approach has led to us having more valuable relationships with our clients, but with fewer of them. At one time we might have had as many as 2,500 offers on our books, with perhaps a few hundred of them live at any one time. By contrast, 90% of our revenue now comes from just 10-15 offers.
I think you are going to see more and more CPL networks going this way. It allows one to step away from a “hard-sell” completely conversion-focused approach, and move towards a more rewarding, deeper relationship. The change in approach can also be extended to the business model, so that rather than the network just charging on a CPL basis, a consultancy-type model be used, and even include a performance-oriented revshare component. It is a big opportunity for this sector of the industry to evolve and grow into real business partners with our clients.
BB: What about data and analytics? It seems as though everyone needs help working out how to use data to actually move the needle in their business?
OB: I think that’s right. Data and analytics are complicated and talent is expensive. So, lots of people people need help. That tells me two things: there’s a real opportunity for CPA networks to step up and be a resource for their clients. Every network has some analytics capability, but the field is evolving really fast. We believe that providing martech expertise to our clients is now a core competency, and that there is a whole consultancy side of the business that will grow out of it.
In general, the trend is towards a more systems-connected approach that enables a broader view of customer behavior. In our case, we link up to Google360, which connects our data to customer behaviors and personas before they even reach a website or landing page. It gives deep insight into the customer journey. It is not cost-free, but it provides insight that is simply not available anywhere else. It gives an edge, and that is often the difference between success and failure.
BB: I love all the technology and martech developments, but there is a part of me that thinks that selling still comes down to gaining a customer’s trust and persuading them of a product’s benefits. How does all this fit together with the rise of influencers, for example? Should CPA networks now be partnering with influencers in a big way?
OB: I think the answer is a big yes. The whole point of a good influencer is that they enable access to an audience that trusts that person. “Influence” in this context represents a shortcut to customer trust. It definitely can provide an edge that is hard to find any other way, although scalability can be difficult. There are two main challenges:
- You want the influencer to maintain their authenticity, however you also need them to actively promote the product as much as possible. The solution is to find points of alignment between the product and the influencer, especially on messaging and brand positioning. Get it right and it enables longer-term deals. It is important not to think of influencers as a short-term advertising opportunity. It is worth the effort to build long-term relationships, and it is better for the influencers as well as they don’t need to chop and change and can develop consistent messaging around the product, integrating into their lifestyle/activities.
- Tracking can be harder than other channels. Promo codes are useful and typically work better than a tracking link, because many customers will tend to go direct. Again, building a relationship with the influencer will help them guide their audience behaviors (by using promo codes, for example), which in turn will help the influencer make more money.
My own view is that influencers are important in growing a brand over time and for reasons that tie back to the beginning of our conversation. Longer-term, deeper relationships are the key to increasing customer lifetime value, and as a result are also the future of our industry.
Performance marketing is evolving and the opportunities are amazing
CrakRevenue is an international and industry-leading CPA Network specializing in web traffic monetization and online marketing solutions. Driven by performance and results, CrakRevenue leads the next phase of affiliate marketing thanks to a skilled team of professionals. Since 2010, CrakRevenue has received multiple awards and is a recognized leader in this industry. The company has been part of mThink’s Blue Book Top 20 CPA Networks rankings for five years in a row. www.crakrevenue.com