How Performance Marketing Is Influencing The Next Generation Of Internet Startups

Is affiliate marketing the next game changer?There have been several interesting announcements in the last week for the next wave of internet startups.

While Facebook’s IPO and subsequent lawsuit has been at the forefront, social sharing site Pinterest made a splash last week when they announced raising $100 million from Japanese e-commerce giant Rakuten.

Rakuten, the parent company and Linkshare, has deep roots in internet retailing and performance marketing.

In an interview, the CEO of Rakuten said that Pinterest is growing exponentially in Japan, and that he wants Rakuten to grow with Pinterest to become the payment platform used when Pinterest users purchase something off the site. In Japan, a reported 75% of internet users have a Rakuten ID, like people in the US would have an Apple or Amazon ID with payment information associated.

This partnership could catapult Rakuten into competition with the likes of ecommerce giants like Amazon and Apple, if this becomes a method of payment in the Western hemisphere. I thought this move by Rakuten was smart, as Pinterest has tested several monetization methods but has yet to finalize its overall strategy.

Is Rakuten’s alignment with Pinterest a sign of things to come: performance marketing companies investing in startups that do not have a definitive monetization strategy? It’s definitely a trend worth looking at, both for prospective affiliates and for merchants.

The Next Generation Of Affiliate Marketers

If you look at the taxonomy of affiliates in the performance marketing industry today, they generally can be categorized as Loyalty, Coupon and Deals, Niche Content, Search, and Product sites.

There are also businesses leveraging affiliate marketing as part of their revenue model; affiliates that could be categorized as “emerging partners”.  These include service providers and technology companies that leverage the performance marketing as either part of their core revenue stream or as an incremental growth driver.

This concept is not new. Businesses like GoldenCAN, Skimlinks, VigLink, and others have grown successful businesses by being part of the affiliate marketing ecosystem.

But there are new companies emerging that are disrupting traditional business and monetization models. These companies are taking services and products that people and companies previously had to pay to use and changing the revenue model to be performance driven.

This can be seen with internet marketing companies like VE Interactive, who provide a technology platform that enables eCommerce companies to re-target customers that abandon the shopping cart in order to improve conversion. Email re-targeting is certainly not a new concept, but VE Interactive is changing the game by offering their technology free and working as an affiliate partner instead of charging merchants for their service.

3 Questions You Should Be Asking, Whether You Are A Startup Or Not

1.  Are there existing business alliances that make better sense as an affiliate partnership?

Oftentimes there are “strategic” partnerships that do not yield the projected revenue or value that are better suited for the affiliate channel than dedicating business development resources to manage and grow the relationship.

This can be true with partnerships your business initiated or vice versa. I’ve seen this most often with technology businesses that have both a reseller channel and affiliate channel. There is sometimes confusion about who goes where, and what makes a good affiliate partner vs. what makes a good reseller partner.

Resellers typically have a pre-existing customer base and are adding value by offering some level of service after the sale, while affiliate partners are focused on marketing activities that drive new customer acquisition.  Low-volume resellers are often times better as affiliates as they can earn more in the form of commission and merchants can test the waters with little to no risk.

2. Are there other performance marketing companies that would make good acquisition candidates?

There are several approaches to identifying companies that would make a good acquisition target for your business. Crowd sourcing is one of the most efficient and effective ways to accomplish this.

If your company has an affiliate program, this could be a good place to start if you think of your affiliate program and/or network as a derivative crowd sourcing platform.

Assuming your company has an affiliate program that is managed well and your affiliate manager is vetting affiliates based on them aligning with your business, products, and core values, your most successful affiliates could be good acquisition candidates.

Here’s why.  First, if your affiliate partners are driving significant revenue it means that they understand how to effectively market and promote your brand and products online. With the exception of arbitrage affiliates, this can lower the risk associated with an acquisition and enable you to better evaluate their business and the value they will add.

Second, given the scalable nature of affiliate programs, you are constantly onboarding new affiliates through proactive affiliate recruitment.  This can create a pipeline of new opportunities and allow you to approach acquisition targets differently than your competitors.

3.  Are there new revenue opportunities for your business leveraging performance marketing?

As a business, you likely have vendor agreements in place that you should review and see if adding revenue share elements is a feasible way to grow the relationship. This applies to relationships in which you are the vendor and ones in which you are the customer.

Sitting in the customer “seat”, ask your vendors about ways to grow the relationship.  Adding a performance incentive to the agreement could be a great way to control upfront costs and add a collaborative spirit to the relationship.

As a vendor, adding performance component to your agreement shows your customers you have “skin-in-the-game” and a vested interest in ensuring they are successful.  Regardless of the side of the table you are sitting on, performance marketing can add an interesting new dynamic to your business relationships and can result in incremental revenue.

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Affiliate Marketing | Affiliate Marketing Column | Channel: Content Marketing


About The Author: is the CEO of iAffiliate Management, an affiliate management agency that helps consumer technology and internet retailers extend their brand to acquire customers they could not otherwise reach.


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  • Aaron Weissman

     Great article Rick.
    We at Skimlinks are thrilled by the level of innovation and so happy to have helped fuel Pinterest’s rise to success, and look forward to partnering with the next great wave of startups!

    All – don’t hesitate to reach out if you want to chat about the industry or anything else. Our ace engineers are looking forward to figuring out how we can work together.

    Our Skimlinks video breaks down what we do pretty clearly:

    Aaron Weissman, Director of Marketing at Skimlinks.

  • Matthew Graczyk

    Pinterest is great for social bookmarking, but what about personal bookmarking – the bookmarks for the sites you visit over and over? I use

  • Anna Cunningham

    Really happy to see performance marketing framed this way. By most standards, it’s an industry that hasn’t seen a ton of innovation over the past decade — but we are certainly seeing that change (and doing our best to be a part of it). Companies that haven’t historically considered incorporating performance marketing into their strategy now are, and it’s driving a wave of new companies / technologies. 

    It will be exciting to see how the next couple of years unfold. Thanks Rick for a great set of pointers all companies should be thinking through.

    Anna /

  • Michael Nunez

    Great article as usual Rick!

    Mike /

  • alan35

    Really informative post,thank you for sharing with us.

  • alan35

    Really informative post,thanks for sharing with us!

  • Milanie Cleere

    Rick, great article!  For online retailers, nice and affiliate marketing is definitely a must for expanding their customer base, but keeping customer acquisition costs as low as possible.  Also, using a flexible ecommerce solutions provider such as Upshot Commerce is key to staying nimble, experimenting and embracing technology driven marketing tools and strategies that work.  This my first time reading your work and definitely look forward to future articles!    


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