NOTE: This audio was recorded before social distancing regulations were implemented, and since the spread of COVID-19, your influencer marketing is probably looking a little different these days. We think you’ll still find the following information valuable, and we look forward to seeing how you support your audience and your influencers and adjust your influencer marketing to stay safe during this crisis.
Affiliate marketing is the win-win approach all brands should be taking with their influencers. By incentivizing influencer partners who already love your product, you gain access to influencers’ loyal and trusting fanbases. Affiliate marketing rapidly grows your brand’s customer base and establishes a personable rapport with your customers.
Despite its efficacy, affiliate marketing is often overlooked when brands develop their marketing strategy. But Gabrielle Pajer and Corinne Travis of CJ Affiliate, one of the most established companies in affiliate marketing, know that affiliate marketing has the power to influence and educate a consumer during their purchase journey, increase engagement and drive sales.
On this episode of the Perlu podcast, they describe how they combine their experience in influencer marketing, audience targeting and content to help build brands’ presence across multiple channels and monetize content through affiliate marketing. Take a break from your work-from-home routine to discover how you can do the same!
- When an influencer partner loves a brand and it resonates with their audience, they’ll go above and beyond. The result? 50% more sales.
- Zero in on influencers whose audience aligns with yours, even if they’re not directly in your industry.
- Short-term ROI is important, but taking advantage of an influencer’s preexisting traffic and SEO will give you ROI that lasts for months or even years.
- Combining affiliate marketing with great influencer partners can provide brands with new consumer insights beyond just program ROI.
Interview with CJ Affiliate
Perlu: Hello and welcome to the Perlu Podcast: Influencer Marketing Reimagined. I’m your host, Alexis Trammell, and today we’re going to be hearing from Corinne Travis and Gabrielle Pajer from CJ Affiliate. CJ Affiliate is one of the most trusted and established names in affiliate marketing. With 14 offices worldwide, the company is dedicated to delivering innovative solutions and strategies designed to drive big results. As part of Publicis Media Group and its media hub, CJ has access to unparalleled data that allows them to offer a truly customer-centric approach to affiliate marketing. CJ Affiliate’s influencer marketing team creates and executes successful content campaigns for boutique and established brands across the finance, telecom, business, retail, home, fashion, beauty, travel, fitness and wellness — you name it — sectors.
Corinne Travis is an experienced senior influencer marketing manager at CJ Affiliate, where she helps influencers and media sites maximize monetization through affiliate marketing and demystifies the world of ecommerce content for top-tier brands. After noticing brands and influencers were consistently looking for ways to create long-term partnerships, Corinne created and now leads the successful VIP influencer campaign service at CJ Affiliate. Corrine has spoken in front of both brands and influencers on topics such as monetization and influencer campaign strategy, and she was recognized as a Top 50 Influencer Marketing Player by Talking Influence in December of 2019.
Gabrielle Pajer is a knowledgeable influencer marketing manager at CJ Affiliate. Her content strategies encompass creative, forward-thinking and analytical audience targeting that help brands build a strong presence across several marketing channels. Corrinne and Gabrielle, thank you so much for joining us today.
Gabrielle Pajer: Thank you.
Corinne Travis: Yes, thank you.
Perlu: Tell us more about yourselves and your roles at CJ Affiliate.
Corinne Travis: My name’s Corinne Travis. I’m a senior influencer marketing manager here at CJ. We are responsible for bridging the gap between affiliate commerce content publishers and influencer marketing. We work with brands to support their content strategies with influencers and media sites.
We also work with influencers and media sites to help them better understand how to monetize their articles, sites and social media channels. We’re a small team and we’re the go-to’s for marketing, sales and business development. We work alongside a lot of our teams to better educate everyone in our organization on working with influencers and those media sites.
What is affiliate marketing and how common is it to integrate affiliate with influencer marketing?
Gabrielle Pajer: Affiliate marketing is when a brand and an online marketing platform such as an influencer or social media platform partner together to influence and educate a consumer during their purchase journey. And in that process, a brand will pay a commission or a small incentive to an influencer or anyone who has this marketing platform to earn additional revenue as they’re targeting these consumers.
Perlu: Nice. So it sounds like some steady income the influencers can have coming their way.
Corinne Travis: Absolutely.
Perlu: How can affiliate marketing be a solution for a brand to track ROI and influencer marketing?
Corinne Travis: Affiliate marketing is a great way to really track what they’re looking for, but that goes beyond just ROI and clicks and sales, I think. Affiliate really gives brands the power to understand more about what’s happening with that sale.
Through CJ Affiliate, we have the capability to track cross-device, so if someone originated on their tablet but actually converted or bought something on their desktop, we’re able to see that. We see more about the conversion.
We have affiliate customer journey reporting so brands can see where the influencer or content published or how they assisted. Maybe they didn’t actually convert or drive the sale, but they influenced the purchase. So we can track clicks and sales and sales volume and more about that actual sale as well, which I think is really valuable data and something you’re really not able to get through any other channel.
Perlu: Right. Yeah. I feel like we hear over and over again on this podcast series that the biggest challenge is connecting influencer marketing to a sale. And it sounds like you guys do exactly that, and you can even track what the journey looked like.
If I’m an influencer and I want to get paid more steadily from brands and I want to prove my worth and my media kits, how will affiliate marketing help me do that?
How do influencers benefit from affiliate marketing?
Gabrielle Pajer: It’s really not about proving your worth on your media kit. You want to make sure that you call out what your reach is on social media and what your uniques are going to be on your blog. But you have to prove to the brand that you can grow organically with them.
Through affiliate marketing, you can find the brands that you already love and start linking out to them and growing those commissions. Then, you go to the brand and you say, “Hey, I really want to work with you more. Here’s my media kit. Here’s what I’ve done with other brands.”
Show examples, show unique perspectives, maybe something on social that you can do that someone else hasn’t done before. Say, “My audience has an affinity to this product or service that you’re offering. I’ve been talking about you for X amount of months and see how much we’ve grown already.” And allow that brand to see what the potential is.
Corinne Travis: Go beyond what your reach is and your following — focus more on what you can do for them. Make them visualize what sets you apart.
Perlu: When you are working with a brand at CJ Affiliate, how do you decide if influencer marketing is right for some of your clients?
Corinne Travis: We ask a lot of questions. A lot of brands come to us and say they want to work with influencers. Others say, “We really want to work with content publishers.” That’s what we call influencers in affiliate, and a lot of what we do is ask questions to understand if influencers are the right fit for you and if so, what kind. Are you better suited to working with a micro influencer or mega influencer? Are you really looking for that original photography? Are you really looking for social engagement?
Some brands come to us and say that they want influencers, but as we ask more questions, it actually turns out that they don’t have a product to give an influencer. So then something like original photography isn’t really something that you can get. Seeing a ton of engagement on Instagram really isn’t something that you might get if you can’t give the influencer a product. There’s a lot of questions that go into figuring out if influencer marketing is a good fit and then figuring out who will be the best and what type of content you want created.
Perlu: Let’s say that I’m an influencer or a brand right now and I’m trying to decide if affiliate is right for me. What should my filters be? What should I be thinking about?
How can I know if affiliate marketing is right for me?
Gabrielle Pajer: I think the first thing you really need to be thinking about is growing your blog. Because with affiliate marketing, driving that conversion really depends on getting that audience to your blog and getting them to click on those links and purchase from you. You can absolutely see that through your social feed when you’re talking about a particular product like, “Oh hey, I got these vitamins, they’re working great,” and your audience is engaging and you’re getting DMs or you’re getting messages and they’re asking more like, “Tell me more about the product. Tell me more about your examples.”
One of the things that we definitely recommend is linking back to your blog and having them read more about it. Have them click through, encourage them, make a call to action to purchase. It’s free to join an affiliate program so it doesn’t hurt to test it out. Add those links to your blog; add those links to social media.
We have a platform that is open to all influencers, all of our publishers in the network, and you can see how many clicks you’re getting. We have what we call a SID value that shows your traffic is coming from Facebook. If my traffic is coming from Facebook, then I’m going to continue to sell through Facebook.
You’re going to have to get savvy with metrics and SEO. But as long as you’re really proactive with your strategy, then you’ll be able to grow your affiliate program, and like I said, it’s free to join. It doesn’t hurt to at least try it.
Corinne Travis: And you can definitely use affiliate on social media. A lot of people are really leaning into Instagram and Instagram stories, but there are only 24 hours that an Instagram story is really live, so that swipe up, that ability to convert — there’s a lot of stipulations around that. Whereas your blog is something that you own, so when driving people back to that blog, you don’t have a 24-hour window where you have to convert. You have a lot longer, and you have the ability to control your content and drive sales there.
Gabrielle Pajer: Yeah, and even with organic search with your blog, it may not convert in the first month, but maybe six months down the road someone will find it through Google and before you know it, your blog is growing. So it’s definitely worth growing all aspects of your business, not just one channel, in order to see that conversion. And it’s not going to happen overnight.
Corinne Travis: A lot of influencers have actually said to me that while sponsored posts are great, you can’t always rely on them. So you don’t always know how many sponsored content articles you’re going to get that month. And if you’re really trying to plan out your income and understand what power you have to earn, affiliate is something that comes into play.
If you are strong, you’re sending a lot of traffic to a specific brand. Adding affiliate links to that post is going to help you drive more conversions and sales, and you’ll get a better understanding through tracking those metrics of which articles are really driving traffic. And if you’re monetizing them, you have a better idea of how much passive, residual income you can really earn over time.
Perlu: As a brand, how can I know whether affiliate marketing is right for my influencer marketing strategies?
Corinne Travis: It’s interesting because affiliate marketing and influencers makes sense to a lot of us in the affiliate channel, but the brands are really looking at last click and conversions. That’s what their goals are; that’s the nature of the channel. Influencers and content publishers on the other hand, within affiliate, are often seen as more top funnel, so that is introductory to your brand.
What we’re trying to do is get a better understanding of what happens in between the introductory phase and that close. We’re seeing that influencers are actually driving a lot more conversions. So our job is really to educate those brands on leveraging influencers to get a better understanding of that whole customer journey.
An influencer and a content publisher can give your consumers more information; it’s not just a coupon code to convert. They can give a much larger product review, introduce your brand and close with a coupon code as well. They can take that consumer through the entire journey and be a true ambassador to your brand.
Find the Perfect Influencer Partner for Your Campaign
Perlu: It sounds like a great idea. As long as you have a product to give to an influencer, it sounds powerful.
Corinne Travis: Yeah. The more you open your program, the better. So what I mean by that is we have the ability to track new customers, but you as a brand need to be able to define what a new customer means to you. Is a new customer someone that’s brand new? Is it someone that hasn’t shopped in six years? By adding those parameters, we’re able to track that. So again, it goes beyond that sale. I’m really looking at all the metrics that affiliate can bring to your program. I’m giving you a better idea of what that conversion really looks like.
Gabrielle Pajer: With the affiliate customer journey, we’re able to see what percentage an influencer assists in a sale. Like Corinne had said, we measure based on a last-click model. So for anyone who doesn’t do affiliate marketing, what that means is if a consumer clicks on one link and then throughout their shopping journey they click on three other links that belong to different affiliates, that last link that they clicked on is the one that gets the credit.
But what we’re able to do is to identify in that path how many other influencers or websites were involved in that journey. And what we’re finding is when an influencer or a content publisher is in that journey path, our AOV is 57% higher because they’re really a discovery platform. They’re teaching consumers about a product. Consumers in general like to hear from their peers more than they like to hear from a coupon site.
They don’t know anything about the product. And with online shopping being more apparent in a person’s life, I want to see somebody wearing a pair of sunglasses or that shirt or those jeans that I want before I buy. It’s hard to buy it without that firsthand experience. I think that’s when influencers are an important part of an affiliate program.
Perlu: I totally agree with that. We always say that influencer marketing is like word of mouth, and depending on what the influencer’s relationship looks like with their audience, it’s kind of like getting a suggestion from a friend.
Gabrielle, you have recently achieved an award-winning strategy within the finance vertical. Do you want to tell us a little bit more about that?
Gabrielle Pajer: It was a financial brand and they had come to us asking for a very strong social strategy. They really were focused on brand awareness and not necessarily the conversion.
We worked with their social team, which is always easier in affiliate marketing. They had asked me to find really out-of-the box ideas, not just your everyday Instagram story with a swipe up. They wanted something unique and different that they’ve never done before. I identified a variety of different influencers from men’s lifestyle that mostly talked about sports and crude humor to a woman’s lifestyle, talking about family.
We did a bunch of different placements. We had run a Twitter party which got notoriety throughout their entire company. The traffic that was driven to that site through that Twitter party on that particular day was through the roof. We did a video series which had been nominated for a few branding awards as the top branded content. SEO has continued to grow ever since.
We did a strong social campaign, but we also did a few blog posts, and they were so pleased with the growth. We exceeded their expectations with 413% year-over-year growth for engagement on that campaign. It was absolutely amazing, and they’re continuing the Twitter parties and that video strategy. The financial vertical is a very dry subject, so to take a dry subject and get people engaged on social media was beyond what we could’ve expected.
Corinne Travis: Right. A really cool part about that strategy was that it was with a financial brand. It was kind of a dry topic, and when a lot of people think about influencers, they think of beauty, lifestyle, travel and fashion. They don’t think about tax or finance or telecom or business, but we’ve been able to really create some great strategies around those sectors, which is very new and different for affiliate and influencer marketing.
Gabrielle Pajer: Yeah, and I think it’s important for the brand to be a little bit daring and not just do the cookie-cutter placement. The male influencer we used for content didn’t even align with what the brand was actually selling, but he was exactly the consumer that we needed to target.
Corinne Travis: We focused on targeting the consumer that they already had.
Gabrielle Pajer: Yeah, and not so much focusing on the content that they were already creating.
Perlu: That’s amazing.
Was there any pushback from the influencer since the topic wasn’t 100% aligned with what he typically would speak about?
Gabrielle Pajer: No, not at all. This particular influencer is an out-of-the box thinker. One amazing thing that Corinne and I have done here in CJ Affiliate is build these really strong relationships with our influencers. When I came to him with this crazy idea he came back with, “Yeah, this is great.”
He came back with this outstanding video series and hired the influencers. He found an actor that he felt was very businesslike and we created videos. But yeah, no pushback at all. Your media kit should call out those unique things that you’re able to do.
Corinne Travis: And when we’re reaching out for our campaigns, we’re not really doing mass outreach. We’re doing a lot of research into leveraging those media kits and leveraging who your audience is and what you can really do for the brand. Are you going to provide us with the typical blog post and one Instagram story, or are you going to think outside the box and realize that this brand seems to align better with Pinterest or Twitter? Dive into a bigger strategy.
We’ve tried to pull unique capabilities from our influencers, and we try to really rely on them and continue to work with those that we know are going to go above and beyond. And because they do go above and beyond after that campaign, they see a lot more investment from that brand.
The brand sees the long-term effects of affiliate, which are the continued sales month over month over month.
We’re not trying to push influencers and media sites to just give everything to the brand. If it’s a true partnership, then you’re going to want to go a step further. And if it’s a brand you really, really believe in, you’re going to want to go a little bit further. And you always see that work for both parties as that relationship continues to grow and see sales.
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Perlu: Absolutely. In previous podcasts we’ve had both influencers and brands speak to this as well. I believe it was Dennis Littley who spoke on going above and beyond for brands and how he’s seen success in his career because he’s one of the influencers who is willing to really grow this relationship. And even if it wasn’t originally agreed on, it’s like, “Well, I have this great idea. I want to deliver it to you.”
Corinne Travis: Influencers do that. There’s something around a 40–50% increase in sales month over month when they continue to go above and beyond and link out to a brand that they just worked with on a campaign, giving continual promotion because they know what resonates with their audience. And to your point, they know that they have this great idea, they know that’ll work and they go above and beyond to help everybody.
Perlu: And then it helps for the brands too, I think, to be sidestepping a little bit. If they were to just go for the influencer that anyone would expect them to go for, they’re just a part of that same noise that the influencer tends to speak about all of the time. But if you really want to step out of that noise, then you should find an influencer that doesn’t typically talk about brands like yours. So if they’re endorsing you, it’s a big deal, and it’ll make you more unique.
We’ve had Nicole Emerick speak to that point too — that she tries really hard to do the sidestep. It’s like, “Well maybe this is beauty and fashion, but we’re going to go on the health side,” or something along those lines.
Corinne Travis: A lot of it really kind of comes down to zeroing in on the influencers where your audience is aligned. When we first started talking to a home delivery food service, a lot of ideas were discussed around leveraging food bloggers, but food bloggers are always promoting their own recipes. Why are they going to use a home delivery service? If you think about the home delivery service and the characteristics of the audience that really relies on that, it’s people who are busy — moms. Leveraging a non-food blogger is really the way to go for that campaign and the results showed. But I think a lot of it is really thinking about the audience characteristics of both parties. And if that blends then we’ll see inevitable success.
Perlu: I totally agree. I mean I think about myself — I don’t like cooking. So if I say that I like Home Chef or something, people should believe me.
What are some other successful influencer marketing strategies that your team has seen your clients profit from?
Gabrielle Pajer: I actually did a campaign with Travelocity, and they gave us a week to turn the campaign around.
Corinne Travis: Not something that we really do.
Gabrielle Pajer: Yeah. It usually takes about four weeks, so I said sure. But I asked if they were okay with us tapping into some of their existing content — something that they’ve already done. We’ve got a large list of travel influencers and I’m sure that they’ve written about X, Y, and Z hotel. They said that was fine, and we did a campaign where we created a few new pieces of content with each individual travel influencer, and then we added affiliate links to existing pages on their blogs that were already driving high traffic.
And within two months, we actually tracked the campaign and we were able to exceed their investment. Then six months down the road, because the nature of travel content in general is very high in SEO, organic search — people are always looking for advice as to where to travel — we had a 300% growth in hotel bookings. So it was just absolutely amazing.
Go back and look at your existing pages and ask, “Hey, can I add an affiliate link here? Who’s already read this content and can I continue to market?”
Say you have a page like Best Travel Essentials. We did this with another campaign of mine. I had someone go into old shopping guides on what to bring when you’re traveling somewhere, and they added a few links in a little blurb about a particular product and that page drove more traffic than the new content that they had written. I highly suggest influencers go back and look at your content and optimize in that way.
Perlu: What advice do you have for someone who is trying to prove ROI for influencer marketing today?
Corinne Travis: This kind of goes back to a few of the points we’ve made, but while the affiliate channel can track ROI and we can see and track sales, there’s so much more to look at that can help. If I’m a brand and I’m using affiliate influencer strategy and I’ve gotten a lot of great content and now I have the rights to use those images — maybe the marketing team newsletters — they could benefit by using that imagery in their newsletters. And we’ve seen that when brands use content creator images, there’s something like a 50% higher engagement rate in that newsletter content or on social.
It’s not just about tracking the ROI of a campaign through affiliate marketing. I think the keyword is “tracking.” We’re able to track a lot of things and just use all of those data points to create a bigger story. Instead of just, “We drove 4X return,” it’s, “We learned this much more about our consumers. We’ve learned this much more about how our consumers engage with content.” Maybe they weren’t mentioning affiliate customer journey data. Maybe those influencers didn’t convert, but they assisted or influenced 50% of the sales. So you’re learning a lot more about those conversions by using affiliate marketing. And I think that’s the true power of affiliate in influencer marketing.
Gabrielle Pajer: Understanding your engagement rate and how many page views you’re getting on your blog goes a long way. Corinne and I use that a lot in our reporting — we go beyond what we’re finding in affiliate. We also share those social engagements and the page views or time on site. You really want to dive into your metrics and share that data and also be upfront with a brand right away and let them know — ask them what their goals are. And if their goal is return and they are not going to move on that return, regardless of what you can offer, then it’s not the right fit.
I think that’s what we are going back to when we ask questions: whether or not influencer marketing is a good thing. I think that you may get excited that X, Y, Z brand wants to work with you, but if they want to see 5X return, then it’s not a fit. And it’s okay to say no.
Corinne Travis: Or ask more questions and understand your own audience. If a brand comes to you and they really need to see that return and if you understand how you can get there and you truly believe you can, then go for it. We’ve seen a lot of campaigns that have had a positive return. I think with an affiliate it’s kind of difficult because those brands often need to see return. With PR and social they’re very interested in engagement and awareness metrics. When we get pulled into affiliate, the conversation changes a little on those brands because there is that transparency. They expect those conversions.
When Gabrielle’s saying we’re having more of those conversations, it’s that we’re telling the brands there’s a lot more than just those conversions when we’re looking at affiliate to tell a larger story. And through affiliate, you can see those conversions, but you can see all those other data points that social and PR and the branding teams might not have access to. It’s about the marketing channels working together. Affiliate, PR, social branding — anyone who touches influencers — makes sure that everyone’s working together. Not stepping on toes and working with the same influencers, but understanding how each channel can provide deeper metrics or provide an in with an influencer I think is very important.
Perlu: Great. Well thank you guys so much. It’s been such a pleasure hearing from guys. Your insights were awesome.
Corinne Travis: Yeah, thank you.
Perlu: Thank you.
To everyone listening, we hope you’ve really enjoyed hearing from Corinne Travis and Gabrielle Pajer at CJ Affiliate. If you like our show and are interested in what it takes to succeed in influencer marketing, we hope you subscribe to our podcast and leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
You can check out our blog at blog.perlu.com for more podcasts and blog posts, and if you haven’t yet, don’t forget to sign up for Perlu at perlu.com to meet, mingle, connect, collaborate and grow your career. We hope you join us for our next installation of Perlu’s influencer marketing podcast: Influencer Marketing Reimagined.