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5 Tips for Developing Your B2B Sales

Increasing B2B sales isn’t simply a matter of hanging out your shingle and hoping that more customers will come your way. Businesses who purchase from you want to believe they have the right vendor at the right time for the right price. Because there are more people involved and there are higher price points, we know from experience at Azam Marketing it can often take months to close a business-to-business sale.

As a business who markets to other businesses how can you tilt the playing field and make sure that when the customer is ready to buy, your company is the one that comes to mind?

1. Collect Feedback

Feedback, whether received through surveys, in-person interactions, or email, is vital for both technical improvements to your site and funnels and your customer-facing work. Because in-depth and useful feedback from clients is hard to come by, it’s important that you take steps to automate the process and encourage your clients to provide you with more.

Talk with your clients. Find out what they liked and what they didn’t like. Talk about the number of steps that they took to get to the sale and the process that they went through. Ask them what about your company caught their attention and what they didn’t like.

Your customers’ needs are constantly evolving. By listening to what they are saying and keeping your ‘finger on the pulse’ you can stay ahead of the competition, making more sales for your company.

2. Produce Videos

There are compelling reasons to have video on your site, but the biggest reason is that it’s one of the most effective means of selling your company’s product. Customers and clients engage with video, often watching and engaging with the shorter ones for the entirety of the clip.

Here are some noteworthy statistics about video marketing.

  • 43% of customers want to see more videos from marketers
  • 9% of marketers name video as the type of content with the highest ROI
  • 4x as many customers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it
  • Shoppers who view video are 1.81x more likely to purchase than non-video viewers
  • 4 in 5 customers believe that demo videos are helpful

Depending on your products, your videos can have many purposes.

  • How-to videos explaining a single part of your product.
  • Explainer videos that outline what your company does and how it does it.
  • Funny videos designed to get others to think about your product.
  • Video testimonials from your clients to persuade others.

3. Upsell and Cross-sell

Upselling and cross-selling have increased sales of B2B and B2C companies for ages. Upselling simply offers a higher version of the product itself. Cross-selling offers related products to your clients.


Amazon has this tactic down cold. For instance, If you place an order for a laptop, you will inevitably be asked whether you want to upgrade the memory card or get a better one. It is the logical thing to do and, shown to millions of people every day, boosts Amazon‘s sales and revenues. The intent behind this is showing the customers that he could get a better product by spending a little extra.


The McDonald’s sales force are also pros at this tactic. Cross-selling offers your client something different but related to the first product. For instance, you’ll most likely be asked the famous question, “would you like fries with that?” or the less leading, “will that complete your order?” with every order. This gives McDonald’s customers to look at the menu for another few moments, pondering their next mouthwatering treat.

Cross-selling and upselling tactics can be applied to nearly any business who wants to improve its bottom line and increase B2B sales. By offering multiple versions of the same service or related services, you can create a selling juggernaut with your already ‘warm’ clients.

4. Run Events

Local events can boost your bottom line like nothing else because they allow you to put a face to the name of the client. Savvy businesses regularly hold events to keep their brand at the top of mind for their customers. Here are some statistics about event marketing for your reading pleasure. The company Certain has gathered over 75 statistics for a larger view of the event marketing picture. Here are a few:

  • 84% of consumers repurchase the product promoted at the event, after their first purchase
  • 51% of marketers surveyed believe that events strengthen existing customer relationships
  • 60% of marketers use tradeshows and events for face-to-face customer meetings
  • 58% of marketers believe that events and conferences are important ways to improve customer experiences of their services or products
  • 31% of event marketers believe that trade shows, conferences, conventions, and channel events are essential to doing business in their target customer markets
  • 69% of B2B marketers consider in-person events effective)
  • The top 5 B2B content marketing tactics: Social Media Content (92%); eNewletters (83%); Articles on your Web Site (81%); Blogs (80%); In-Person Events (77%).

The event you hold doesn’t have to be something very formal. You can set up something on Meetup for your contacts and clients to attend. By offering them something different to get them in the door, you are getting your brand to stand out and lining up potential customers.

5. Publish Case Studies

Whether your business constantly generates data and whether you have hired a marketing agency like yours truly or you are the one doing the advertising, leveraging that data into the creation of case studies – and perhaps white papers – is often beneficial for your business. Case studies generates fuel for the fire to get more clients interested in your product or service because it’s measurable proof of what your company does.

73% of buyers used case studies in B2B purchasing decisions (2016 DemandGen Report). Fortunately, developing a case study mostly involves the collation of materials rather than the creation of new materials. Look at your customer successes. Are there ways that you can parlay that into viable case studies?

These 5 marketing tactics to increase B2B sales are by no means the only way to capture the attention from customers and earn higher revenues from them. Each tactic has its pros and cons, but all of them give you the opportunity to increase your bottom line.

What steps can you begin to implement today to increase your company’s revenues?

A slightly different version of this article is originally posted at Tenfold.

Your favourite digital bods are thrilled to be entering the video age with a series of exciting new videos. The first releases have been created for the tens of thousands of loyal followers of our social media channels and their aim is to infuse folk with hefty dollops of inspiration sprinkled with pearls of wisdom from some of the greatest minds in history combined with what we have learned while running Azam Marketing.

We have created bespoke videos for each of our several different Facebook and Twitter accounts. The videos are similar, so we’ll showcase just a couple of them below for your delectation.

This one is for Azam Marketing’s Twitter account (follow here):

Twitter only allows videos to be up to 2 minutes 20 seconds in length and so we created the above to be just one second shorter than that limit. Facebook’s maximum time length is a lot longer (at 45 minutes), so we were able to shoot slightly longer videos for that channel and include another quotation from the “Wizard of Menlo Park”.

This particular one is for the Nadeem Azam Facebook page (like and follow here):

We’ve uploaded a few other videos to our YouTube channel in the last couple of weeks, including two indepth tutorials that are over forty minutes long each and pure gold dust, so make sure you check it out and subscribe here!

'This is Affiliate Marketing' with Shawn Collins is focused on the people behind the affiliate management/OPM companies, advertisers/merchants, affiliates/publishers, and affiliate networks. There are no tips or resources. No business advice. On each episode, Shawn interviews a new guest related to the industry, so you can learn more about the people of affiliate marketing. After all, affiliate marketing is about the people; not the companies.

I’ve been interviewed several times by radio and television stations this year, but the interview I’ve enjoyed the most is with Shawn Collins as part of his renowned ‘This is Affiliate Marketing’ podcast series.

For those people who don’t know him (have you been living under a stone??!!), Shawn is a legend in the affiliate marketing industry, having been a key figure in its development since he started out in 1997.

Shawn is Co-CEO of the Affiliate Summit, an industry conference for affiliate marketing, which regularly sells out and features the biggest names in performance marketing. He is also the Co-Editor-in-Chief of FeedFront Magazine.

His book, Successful Affiliate Marketing for Merchants is the best selling book in the space, and it is considered to be required reading by affiliate managers. He also wrote the Amazon bestselling book, Extra Money Answer, as well as Affiliate Manager Boot Camp: Recruiting, Educating, and Retaining Affiliates.

Shawn makes a point of not “talking shop” in his podcasts and there is no business talk; instead he tries to get to know what makes the personalities in the industry tick. As Shawn states, “affiliate marketing is about the people, not the companies”.

In the interview Shawn asks me about:

  • Muhammad Ali
  • Programming video games as a kid
  • Ending racial, class, and gender bias in creative professions
  • Studying political science and political ambitions
  • My addiction to reading which means checking out dozens of books from local libraries

Click play below to listen to the podcast, with relevant pictures:

Links from the interview:

Nadeem and Shawn at Affiliate Summit London conference in 2007

My team and I at Azam Marketing have lots of exciting things we will be announcing over the next few months so subscribe to this blog to remain updated for free.

Difference between B2B (Business-to-Business) and B2C (Business-to-Consumer) lead acquisition sales strategies

It is vital to ensure your sales strategy is laser focused and effective. Your B2B and B2C lead acquisition strategy is critical to success or failure. You may have the best talkers, presenters and deal-makers in your team. However, it’s going to be a long and difficult journey, and potentially cataclysmic for your business, if you have a mismatched and ineffective client-acquisition strategy.

To devise a methodology that will reap dividends for your business, your first step is to distinguish between B2B and B2C. The sales strategies that you employ are distinctly different, depending on your target audience. Here are six key differences to keep in mind:

Lead Pool

The lead pool size is a major differentiator between B2B and B2C sales strategies. With B2Cs, you are targeting large numbers of people – often millions – who you feel need your product or service.

Let’s say, as example, that you’re selling cornflakes. To zoom in on your target audience, just count the number of people who have breakfast every day. And, in case you want to broaden the market, you can get marketing to design a campaign that sells cornflakes as snack and dinner alternatives. In this case you potentially have a lead pool made up of billions of people.

For B2Bs, the lead pool size usually shrinks significantly, and is more defined by the companies’ specific requirements. As an example, let’s presume that you’re selling one of those corn/oat-flake making machines. This limits your lead pool to companies, such as Kelloggs and Nestle. You don’t even have those artisan cornflake makers in your lead pool, unless you can convince them to turn to machines.

Given this reality, a blanket approach won’t work. Similar companies will go after that puddle-sized lead pool. So, you need to be specific in your pitch to each of the companies in your pool.

For both B2B and B2C sales teams, here’s a useful pointer from SEOmoz‘s effervescent CEO and co-founder Rand Fishkin in terms of how to win over your lead pool: “Best way to sell something: don’t sell anything. Earn the awareness, respect and trust of those who might buy.”

Required Product Knowledge

Your sales team needs to know about what they’re selling. This is the same, regardless of whether they’re trying to procure purchases from consumers or businesses. You and your colleagues need to be flexible and up-to-date with your techniques. As Brian Halligan, CEO and co-founder of HubSpot, emphasises: “People shop and learn in a whole new way compared to just a few years ago, so marketers need to adapt or risk extinction.”

Both B2B and B2C sales teams need to know their product like the back of their hand. They should know their features, design details, advantages and disadvantages. Competitor knowledge is necessary too. Buyers are more sophisticated these days – be it B2B or B2C. They will know some details about your product and ask questions.

The difference lies in the depth of knowledge required. Buyers in B2B and B2C have different information requirements. A modern mother buying cornflakes, for instance, may want to know the calorie and sugar count of the product, as well as its price and taste. Your sales team can be trained to respond promptly these queries. After a week or two, they may already be highly knowledgeable about your product.

Compare this to a B2B sales team. Your team needs to know the specifications and technical details of the product. They need to know how this would fit into the systems – hardware, software and human-powered – and processes of your target companies. And, it is almost always different from one company to the next.

A few weeks of training often won’t cut it. An effective B2B sales team needs continuous training, thorough product knowledge, and experience in product presentations and fielding questions from executive-level prospects.

Number of Decision-Makers

In a typical B2C buying scenario, you only deal with one decision maker. In our cornflake example, to this day in a family set-up it is still usually the mother, and it is her tastes, budget and preferences that you need to consider. Perhaps her partner or children will also have a part to play in the cornflake-buying decision – but that is not always the case.

In the case of B2Bs, the decision-making process is more than likely to be a lengthy process that involves trying to win over several stakeholders. According to CEB (now Gartner) Executive Advisor and author Brent Adamson, the average number of B2B stakeholders is 6.8.

There are several factors to explain this, such as globalization, the decentralization of decision making and solutions packages (instead of singular products). Whatever the case, your B2B sales team should employ a strategy that factors in several key decision-makers.

Expected Response

The response to your sales strategies is expectedly on opposite ends when it comes to your B2B and B2C efforts.

You strive for an emotional response from your B2C clients. Sure, you might offer some facts here and there. Perhaps you will tell your prospects that cornflakes are good fibre sources and that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. But, the end goal of your marketing outreach is to gain customer loyalty. You want them to love and prefer your product, even if there are better breakfast options.

Kellogg's corn flakes and other products of U.S. Kellogg Company are offered at a supermarket of Swiss retail group Coop in Zumikon, Switzerland

It’s different with B2B clients. Corporate purchases – such as cornflakes making machines in our example – are usually on the top end of the price scale. They’re investments that need thorough consideration, especially when it comes to the expected costs, returns, advantages and disadvantages. These are things that can’t be left to emotions.

B2B buyers are more likely to approach their purchasing decision with rationality. Keep this in mind when drafting sales strategies that target corporate buyers.

Decision-making Process

In the B2C scenario, the decision-making process is quick – in some case, even impulsive. People buy out of habit or they buy in-the-moment. Their decision is influence by advertising, word-of-mouth or habits/ cravings. To sell to this kind of audience, you need product awareness and presence.

With B2Bs, however, the wooing period is longer. There are several people making the decision, and you need to convince each one of them. You will go through a lot of phone calls, meetings and demos if you’re keen on closing the deal. And, this can take months.

Length of the Business Relationship

Typically, B2C business relationships are looked upon as one-off transactions. The focus is right there at the point of purchase. Outside that, preferences and loyalties can change. The cornflake-buying mother today may decide on another brand next week; or, she may choose to switch to eggs and toasts for breakfast.

With B2Bs, it’s different. The whole purchasing process is an investment for both sides. Your sales team puts in weeks or months of their time and effort attending to the requirements of the prospect. You nurture your lead, and provide necessary information and content. You follow-up, meet and present to all stakeholders. Your buyers put in their time and effort too to find the best-fit solution for their needs.

The underlying expectation of this mutual investment is that it’s for a long-term relationship. It’s never a one-off transaction because there’s going to be a consistent need for maintenance, support and upgrades. The stakeholder’s purchasing decision takes a long time because it’s a crucial one: that of choosing a business partner.

Of course, this can also apply to B2C transactions, at a lesser degree. You create relationships with your clients, whether B2B or B2C. This is where your business’ success lies. As speaker, writer and Chief Content Office of MarketingProfs, Ann Handley, puts it: “Make the customer the hero of your story.”

This article is originally posted at Tenfold.

The European Union and the United Kingdom have been through extensive negotiations to discuss the terms of the latter’s withdrawal from the former. With the fifth round of talks ending in Brussels on Thursday, I was invited by television channel ‘HispanTV’ to be interviewed about the discussions and the ramifications of a “no deal” scenario.

‘HispanTV’ is an international Spanish language news channel whose programmes are distributed in Spain, Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba and other countries.

I summarised where the stalled Brexit negotiations stood as regards the three key points the EU insists are resolved at stage one, namely the financial settlement, citizens’ rights and Northern Ireland, and expressed how there were severe risks to the British economy were the country to leave the trading bloc where 44% of its exports go without a meaningful deal to facilitate trade.

As is common with broadcast output, my interview was snipped down to about a twentieth of the original length, but you may see my segment here:

If you’re a Spanish speaker, here’s the written news report, as filed by HispanTV’s renowned reporter Ian Díez (the gentleman who interviewed me in the above transmission and I’m in the pictures with in this blog post):

Finaliza la quinta ronda de negociaciones para que Reino Unido abandone la UE, y por el momento no hay resolución en ninguno de los aspectos sobre el divorcio.

En este sentido, derechos de ciudadanos, frontera de Irlanda, y compromiso presupuestario son necesarios para negociar el futuro comercial entre ambos bloques tras marzo de 2019.

Hace 9 meses que el Gobierno británico activó el artículo 50, iniciando formalmente el periodo de negociación de dos años para salir de la Unión Europea (UE) y de hoy los avances son escasos.

Tras el fin de la quinta ronda de negociaciones, sigue sin haber acuerdo en lo referido al estatus de ciudadanos, frontera entre Irlanda del Sur e Irlanda del Norte y las contribuciones al presupuesto comunitario a las que se comprometió la primera ministra británica, Theresa May, en su discurso en Florencia (Italia) el pasado 22 de septiembre.

El negociador británico, David Davis, afirma que las negociaciones avanzan, pero el jefe negociador de la UE para el Brexit, Michel Barnier, no comparte su optimismo y destaca la falta de acuerdo en puntos clave del divorcio, sin el cual, no se negociarán futuras relaciones comerciales. En Londres, las presiones para que estas negociaciones comiencen antes de final de año, ponen en riesgo aún más la unidad del Partido Conservador.

La primera ministra desea que la totalidad de las negociaciones terminen antes de marzo de 2019, fecha en la que Reino Unido abandona oficialmente la UE, pero el ritmo actual de las negociaciones no invitan al optimismo y si Bruselas no acepta la propuesta de un periodo de transición, se podría llegar a la fecha límite sin acuerdo. A consecuencia de esta incertidumbre, la libra esterlina ha vuelto a bajar tras esta jornada.

BBC Asian Network is a British radio station whose target audience is young people aged 15-35 of South Asian descent (Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi), and anyone with an interest in South Asian affairs. The music and news comes out of the main urban areas where there are significant communities with these backgrounds. The station has production centres in London (Broadcasting House) and Birmingham (The Mailbox).Our Manager, Nadeem, was invited by the BBC to be interviewed about the impact of social media on voting trends and various related subjects. The interview was for the BBC Radio Asian Network, which is predominantly targeted at the UK’s three million south Asians.

Nadeem was asked to share his expertise on a number of points, including:

  • How has social media affected people’s voting preferences?
  • How is Britain’s Labour Party using social media to attract the youth vote?
  • How do different south Asian religious groups vote?

Press play here to listen to the interview:

After the interview, the BBC offered Nadeem a tour of their headquarters, Broadcasting House in central London. Apparently they are the largest broadcast studios in the world, producing and beaming television, radio and online content in multiple languages around the world. See some of Nadeem’s pictures from the tour below.

Click here to see photographs in larger size (opens in new window)

Listen to one of Nadeem’s several previous interviews on BBC Radio here, in which he reveals his three golden techniques on how to save significants amounts on your online shopping.

In an exciting new series, we will be publishing articles to enable you to upscale your skills in the work environment, including effectively prospecting for clients, productive ways to manage clients deal once they’ve come on board, handling colleagues with emotional intelligence, the most powerful online marketing techniques and tools, and much more.

The first article, below, proffers strategies on how to successfully win new clients.

Business-to-business (B2B) prospecting is something even seasoned sales professionals struggle with occasionally. Read our 5 healthy habits below.In prospecting, the goal is to create interest, convert that interest into relationships, and successfully manage these connections to produce meaningful transactions in the future.

So, what is a good prospector and what do they do?

As with any successful relationship, prospecting entails developing good habits throughout the whole process.

You do not just nurture it at the beginning, nor do you simply wait for it to continue being productive at later stages. Be it after great starts, or maybe after the first, second, and maybe hundredth “no,” consistent tenacity in pursuing profitable partnerships, and fierce loyalty to the company’s vision, will ensure a healthy connection is maintained, and cultivate a robust business image for even more sales leads.

To help salespeople keep in good prospecting shape, here are 5 healthy habits to successful prospecting:

1. Targeting the right prospects

Successful sales prospectors know that the initial and crucial phase of their work is researching extensively on their ideal client. It is best to be as specific as possible when determining the criteria upon which your prospecting activity will be based.

Get to know who your happiest, most regular customers are and deconstruct their criteria from there. Ask yourself, “What demographics do they have in common?”

Once you have determined this relevant baseline, scout avenues to maximize your interaction with this target audience.

Go beyond your individual clientele and look for prospects in companies and organizations. Establish relationships with the right people in these companies. If possible, go straight to the influencers who make decisions for more direct connections.

Constantly update yourself on the trends of your target market and industry. Using your influencer contacts, keep tabs on emerging markets for more possible prospects, or even diversification of prospects.

2. Planning your prospecting activity

It does not end in working the right market, however. Now you must strategically plan how to approach these markets.

In planning your prospecting activity, one should start with end goals in mind. These are plans that are to be achieved within specific timeframes – a day, a week, a month, and even a year. These goals should be kept simple and measurable – an established number of prospects met with daily, a target number of scheduled talks within the month, etc.

Once the set goals are established, one should look at the tasks each activity needs so that these goals are hit.

Consider the assets that will come in to prospecting play. Databases of information should be kept updated and accurate. Scripts need to be developed, improved and custom-made to suit the criteria’s interests, needs, and language of comfort.

These methods of prospecting should be thoroughly thought about and aimed at the right criteria of clients. Depending on your prospect base, figure out the regularity, intensity, etc, of these prospecting activities.

3. Keeping tabs on your team

Once prospecting tasks have been carried out and business relationships are beginning to be established, it is always best to follow through.  For prospectors who work with a team, data tracking is important.

A competent sales team should be able to track – where do leads come from, and what stage is a prospect in, in the buying process? These, and other similar questions, should be answered, to track productivity and efficiency.

If there’s new information about what offers the prospects and leads are interested in, then that can be very helpful. At the very least, you can see where you stand in terms of your stated goals. Plus, this tracking can be used further down the line, in revisiting targets and plans.

If your prospecting finger is on the button, then it will become easier for you to adapt goals, targets, schemes, etc.

4. Prospecting continuously

There is no immediate success in prospecting–but if it is planned well, and the campaign carefully customized to your ideal customer’s standards, you can expect new connections and sales conversions on a regular basis. Knowing how to be an excellent salesperson is about understanding the importance of persistence.

To ensure consistent productivity, prospecting has to be done relentlessly, no matter the outcome. Sometimes, it should even be done more tenaciously, in the face of negative feedback.

A typical sales prospector is aware that rejection is part of the process. A wise prospector however, also knows that these can be turned around over time, and with the proper approach. Prospecting should be done on a regular basis, keeping the end goal clear in mind, and not losing heart in the process.

5. Nurturing relationships

When prospecting leads to positive results, it is then best to dive in and capitalize on this favourable angle. This lead could be a source of more sales, and hopefully another sales lead.

This customer could connect to other customers with similar demographics, or even be a part of an organization that caters to this specific sale. Developing a habit of regularly maximizing leads allows prospectors to guarantee that these avenues are fully explored, and do not get lost in the panorama of the overall process.

Allowing prospectors to cultivate these good habits warrants that sales leads are productively generated, followed up on, and developed. Managers who know how to be successful in sales understand that prospecting is in the core of a healthy sales team and everyone should be prospecting.

This article is originally posted at Tenfold.

Affiliate network Awin interviews Nadeem Azam in their blog

On the 20th anniversary of our founding, Europe’s leading affiliate network Awin has interviewed our CEO, Nadeem Azam.

The interviewer asks Nadeem:

  • how affiliate marketing has evolved over the last two decades
  • the developments that have been pivotal to Azam Marketing’s success
  • the three most important lessons he’s learned during his career
  • the biggest challenges Azam Marketing faces
  • what a start-up publisher needs to do to succeed

Read the full, eye-opening interview below or a shortened version here on Awin’s site.

Azam Marketing is a publisher and full-service digital marketing and design company which is headquartered in Covent Garden in central London.

Azam Marketing started their affiliate journey in 1997 by building a network of niche websites promoting advertisers in the USA, UK and continental Europe, becoming an affiliate on the Awin network in 2001.

Having built up an expertise in online advertising and web design by working on their own websites, Azam Marketing went on to provide these services to other businesses. To date they have built 427 websites and helped 993 clients to grow their online presence.

We speak to CEO, Nadeem Azam about how the affiliate industry has evolved over the past two decades, lessons learnt from his career and the biggest challenges Azam Marketing faces within the industry.

Nadeem Azam at Awin's black-tie dinner event "An Elaborate Execution" in 2009Congratulations are in order as Azam Marketing celebrates 20 years within the affiliate marketing industry and 16 years on the Awin network. What was your opinion of the affiliate space when you founded the company in 1997?

Thank you. Affiliate marketing was all but non-existent in the UK and the rest of Europe and we started off by partnering with advertisers in the USA. This included the likes of book and magazine retailers, hardly any of which exist anymore either because, at some point or other, they went out of business or were snapped up by other companies.

When we started in 1997 there were a few American affiliate networks that had recently launched. We belonged to around a dozen affiliate programs, either working with advertisers directly or via the nascent affiliate networks.

When we applied to join advertisers’ affiliate programs, we would sometimes have to fax or post our details!

To receive payment, we would usually email or fax an invoice, and in most cases our affiliate commissions were paid to us by “check”, as they’re called in the USA.

Although the set-up, technologies and know-how was rudimentary in the early days, there was a tremendous sense of optimism about this new world that only a relatively few buccaneering entrepreneurs were trying to develop an understanding of and grow a presence in.

With its roots in the military and academia, the internet was not a particularly commercial environment in the mid-1990s and that meant there was a meaningful camaraderie and sense of community. For example, programmers on the other side of the world I hardly knew would see me post on a Usenet group about struggling with creating a script to add functionality to a website and, without even asking, spend an hour or two creating it and then sending it to me! In the same mode, I would spend hours on bulletin boards and Usenet groups assisting people to build and promote their websites.

Has this opinion changed two decades on?

Boy have things changed! Twenty years in internet marketing has probably involved more transformation than a hundred years in many professions like law, dentistry and high street retailing.

Whereas it was a struggle to find an affiliate program in the UK and around Europe, there are literally tens of thousands nowadays. Things have turned upside down and nowadays it’s a challenge to find a medium or large size retailer that doesn’t have an affiliate program!

Affiliate networks like Awin are now full of shiny, sophisticated tools and API solutions. Payments are automated and, on the whole, reliable: I can’t remember a single point in the last ten years when Awin has missed a payment to us.

Despite the brave new cyberworld that has come into being, we are still at the dawn of the internet revolution. Affiliate marketing is at an early stage of its evolution, and has a way to go to ensure, for instance, that tracking is robust and dependable.

Which key digital milestones have significantly shaped Azam Marketing’s business strategy to make it the company it is today?

Good question.

From a practical perspective, the shift first from high-cost and low-speed dial-up to low-cost and high-speed dial-up and then from dial-up to broadband, has been a key pillar in enabling Azam Marketing, our advertisers and their customers to enjoy the benefits of the internet.

If it takes you twenty seconds of screeching sounds to log onto the internet and then you have to pay an arm and a leg for a flaky 56k connection, you’re not going to use it very often!

In terms of improvements instigated internally, we pivoted to success when we started running Azam Marketing as a data-driven operation on every level rather than one where decisions were made using a more arbitrary, ‘creative’ approach let’s just say! Now the judgements my team and I make are based on pure logic, obsessively analysing relevant information and metrics.

To give an example, whenever we are hired to drive leads for a new advertiser, rather than rushing headlong into trying to flood them with traffic, we use a combination of tools and manual research to meticulously study every aspect of their competitor’s strategies and, if we are sending leads to landing pages, we will take the pages through several rounds of usability analysis and split-testing before we settle on the final, near-perfect one.

I suppose the fact that my nose is glued to a computer screen with the likes of Microsoft Excel and Google Analytics displayed on it much of the day makes Azam Marketing a less exciting enterprise than we used to be in the early days, but I have learned a lot over my decades in business, and the data-driven approach to decisions means ultimately less time and money is wasted in the long-term.

Name the three most important lessons you have learnt during your career as Founder and CEO of an award-winning global agency?

1. The Customer is King – after the startup enthusiasm wanes, the majority of unsuccessful businesses eventually begin to be run to service the egos of their staff and ensure they don’t have to take themselves too much outside of their comfort zones. The vast majority of successful businesses put the satisfaction of customers at front and centre of everything they do, even decades after starting out.

I am flabbergasted at how the management of hardly any small or medium-sized enterprise bothers to obtain feedback from their clients, customers and employees. It’s usually only when a client or colleague leaves that it dawns upon them they were disgruntled!

In my own company, at the end of every month every staff member has to give me feedback as their Manager and must include at least one thing I should improve about myself. I have also set-up mechanisms for staff and clients to send their opinions to me completely anonymously. This ensures I don’t have my head in the clouds and can live up to the mantra my staff are sick of hearing me proselytise, of the customer being king.

2. Time is Money – the world is full of people who want you to help them and their businesses for no remuneration, whereas they would seldom commit serious time, energy and money to assisting others on a pro bono basis themselves.

I have wasted thousands of hours over the years by foolishly getting sucked into working on other people’s initiatives to the detriment of my own progression. I have finally developed a nose for sussing out ‘users’ and ‘time-wasters’ and will not give them the time of day any more.

It’s saving me a lot of time, as, for instance, I get contacted by at least twenty so-called entrepreneurs every week who want me and my team to work on their new-fangled and usually ill-thought-out business ventures on a ‘revenue share’ – i.e. no payment – basis (tip: the best way to get rid of such people is to ask for their business plan – 99% of them can’t be bothered to create one and you’ll never hear from them again!).

3. Health is Wealth – if you are not physically, psychologically and spiritually balanced and healthy, unless you have an innate talent which most of us are not blessed with, you are unlikely to succeed in business in the long-term.

The online marketing industry we work in can combine the worst excesses that advertising is renowned for (the hard drinking culture and the like) with the dangers prevalent in the IT sector (long days sat on a chair, excessive snacking while on the computer). Among affiliates, we used to joke about the “affiliate belly” this would result in.

I’ve seen too many talented young people in affiliate marketing not live up to their potentials because they didn’t look after themselves. They have made very little progression with their careers over ten or fifteen years; others have left the industry because their unbalanced lifestyles eventually took their tolls on them.

On the other hand, I’ve witnessed individuals I’ve mentored who did look after themselves go on to tremendous success – earning six figure incomes in their early and mid-thirties – because not only did they work with exceptional strategy and focus, but they heeded my advice to prioritise their health too. These people do not turn up to the office boasting about having a hangover that impedes their performance.

I myself walk at least 10,000 steps four days a week, go to the gym three times a week, eat healthily, and practice mindfulness and pray every day; were it not for these I would almost certainly have burned up and been spat out by this demanding industry a long time ago.

I still spend way too much time with Marilyn (my PC) than is good for me and that penchant is a work in progress let’s just say!

What is the biggest challenge Azam Marketing faces within the industry?

The three biggest challenges we see as an affiliate are, firstly, the dominance of cashback and voucher code websites and browser plugins, secondly, the shift from desktop to mobile, and thirdly, ad and tracking blockers.

In terms of the former, Azam usually sits as the beginning of the funnel for purchasing decisions as we have a network of content-rich websites, with, for instance, book reviews. While we may encourage someone to buy a book, it can be the case that another affiliate receives the commission by claiming they have a voucher code for the bookshop (even though in most cases they don’t) and the ‘click-to-reveal’ feature on their website – banned by the IAB UK in 2010 – drops their cookie.

In terms of mobile devices, a significant ratio of advertisers still don’t have tracking installed that reliably tracks affiliate traffic on mobiles. Also, many larger retailers, gaming companies etc. are aggressively encouraging users to download their mobile apps, which means affiliates will have less of an opportunity to earn referral commissions going forward.

As for ad and tracking blockers, which are being installed in their millions by the month around the world, including being integrated into increasing numbers of browsers, these are obviously a threat to affiliates as they mean adverts are hidden and any clicks users make from an affiliate to an advertiser’s website is not tagged back to affiliate.

You are 20 years into your affiliate marketing career, but for startup publishers starting out within the channel, what is the future looking like and what advice can you give?

Despite what I have stated as my answer to your previous question, the opportunities to become a successful publisher are very much there.

When Azam Marketing launched, most people didn’t even know what the internet was and, even when people started going online, they were very hesitant to provide their credit card details to any website, as they were worried about being scammed.

Over the last twenty years internet shopping has become mainstream to such an extent that it is driving high street retailers out of business, and, even in mature markets, is expanding at such a rate that ecommerce was responsible for 41.6% of all retail sales growth in the USA last year (2017 US Department of Commerce figures)!

Therefore, the opportunity for start-up publishers to become profitable are tremendous. The formula is simple: a nose for where the opportunities will lie, the willingness to work in a focused and sagacious way, and… a little bit of pixie dust!

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