Affiliate Manager Interview: Jennifer O`Neal, StubHub.com
1) Jennifer, can you please tell our readers a bit more about yourself and
your role in the organization of StubHub.com?
The dotcom boom hit during my last year at Berkeley and, thinking it would
be interesting to tap into this new Internet culture (rumored to be laden
with foosball tables & catered lunches), I applied for a job at a brand-new
startup called StubHub.com.
If you've ever worked at a startup, then you know job descriptions should
be taken with a hunk of salt. Mine was no exception: 'Marketing - Get customers
to StubHub'. Along with our affiliate program, I've managed our radio campaigns,
handled email marketing, run Charity Auctions, written site copy, created
our brand's style guidelines, negotiated with media companies, designed online
& offline advertisements, written PR articles, taken customer service
calls, and built cubicles.
In other words, I've been busy the past 4 years.
2) Can you describe StubHub.com's identity and reputation?
Started by 2 season ticket holders, StubHub.com is a marketplace where fans
can buy & sell tickets for sporting events, concerts, & theater performances
For example: if you're a Boston Red Sox season ticket holder, you just paid
a lot of money for your package…but can you make all 81 home games? On
StubHub, you can resell your extras to recoup your initial costs while giving
other fans access to your seats. (Think: an eBay for Tickets, except fully
StubHub is returning the ticket market to the fans, who have traditionally
been at the mercy of Ticketmaster's availability or scalper negotiations.
As StubHub grows, the increased ticket supply is resulting in a reflection
of market value prices…so ticket prices are dropping and more fans can
see their favorite artists or take their kids to a game.
Our partners include teams in the NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, & NCAA, performing
artists such as The Eagles & Britney Spears, and media companies including
AOL & USAToday. So yep, we're legit.
3) As a dot-com organization, how much emphasis is placed on search engine
marketing (SEM) compared to other avenues of marketing and sales?
As an online company, we are just 1 click away from any potential customer…so
SEM is a strong component of our marketing plan. The overall success of PPC
advertising shows that consumers are becoming more proactive in their product
searches: if they want what you're selling, you'd better be there when they
ask for it.
While other companies may turn over SEM to their affiliates, it's smart to
maintain a PPC division in-house. This allows you to stay aware of conversion
rates, run keyword & ad-copy tests, understand this dynamic industry,
and basically cover yourself if those SEM affiliates ever disappear.
4) How many active affiliates help to grow your business?
Though our program is just over a year old, we have several thousand affiliates.
Of these, about 18% are active and driving considerable volume. (In case you're
worried about the non-performers in your program, know that the 80/20 rule
is pretty standard in affiliate marketing.)
5) Of the three forms of SEM (Pay per click advertising, Search Engine Optimization
& Paid Inclusion), which methods prove to be the most effective for your
top earning affiliates?
Our top affiliates use a combination of PPC & SEO to generate sales.
The key to success with these methods, however, is frequent communication.
Because we know this stuff best, we will share SEO tips, PPC formulas, &
top performing keywords with our qualified affiliates. This information acts
to incentivize, reward, & help them…which ultimately translates into
sales & growth for StubHub.
There is considerable debate about whether this is a good idea - sharing
such valuable data with affiliates who could increase your internal PPC bids
or who could switch to your competitor's program. For now, we would rather
see our top keyword search results flooded with affiliates than flooded with
links to our competitors. So choose your qualified affiliates carefully &
work hard to develop a level of trust that will bring you both success.
6) Late in 2003, Google had made significant changes in what is now referred
to as the "Florida Update". Can you describe for us the impact the
Florida update had on your web site as well as the performance of your affiliate
Because we only recently jumped into the SEO game, the Florida update did
little to hurt us. In fact, our program experienced over 20% growth during
November '03…so our affiliates seemed to weather the storm just fine
(so to speak).
7) What types benefits should affiliates look for when reviewing an affiliate
When reviewing a program, affiliates should look at both the commission structure
and the sales potential. (I mean, it's great if you could earn $100 for every
gold-plated toilet sold through your links…but how many are you going
to sell?) Look for a fair commission rate coupled with high potential for
The action referral period (ARP) is another metric to consider, as you'll
want to receive commission for sales that occur after your links were first
clicked. The standard ARP seems to be 30 days, so anything more than that
should be pretty good. (The StubHub program actually offers 60 days, which
is attractive to affiliates who go after repeat purchases during sports seasons.)
As an affiliate, you're pretty much on your own…so having the support
of a conscientious Affiliate Manager & having access to tools (eg. an
XML feed) are huge benefits to any program. A good AM will tell you how to
drive sales and the tools will enable you to do it.
And more than anything, an affiliate should believe in the product being
sold. Trust your instinct and promote companies that you like…because
if you don't believe in what you're selling, how likely are other people to
buy it? It's easier and more fun to promote products you would actually use.
8) Would you be willing to share with us some of the best growth-models for
affiliates working in your program?
While there is no silver bullet or singular solution to creating a successful
program, the following elements are key for growth:
- Run Tests - Whether you are running PPC campaigns or building content
pages, you should be testing creative, content, keyterms (and everything else)
by running A/B splits and tracking your results on a daily basis. Find what
works…and keep testing until you find something that works even better.
And then keep testing.
- Know the Industry - Pay attention your merchant's industry so that
you can effectively market to their target demographic. Seasonality is also
important: for example, "Lakers Tickets" may be a profitable keyterm,
but only during basketball season. Ask your AM for advice about what to promote
& when to promote it.
- Stay in Touch - Your Affiliate Manager is the #1 expert on how to
drive sales for that brand. Use your AM as a resource and establish a relationship
based on consistent communication. I make myself available via phone, email,
& instant messaging: the affiliates who take advantage of this are rewarded
with additional help, exclusive bonuses, and more. In short, I'm here to make
money for my affiliates…but they must first introduce themselves or respond
to my emails.
9) What major challenges have you helped StubHub.com to overcome as the affiliate
The main challenge was starting our programs from scratch: with no prior
affiliate experience, the learning curve was pretty steep. One of my college
friends (Brook Schaaf, AM for Shoes.com) kindly answered my many questions
& introduced me to the world of Affiliate Marketing, which helped get
A more consistent challenge is maintaining our EPC on the Commission Junction
network. We've held the #1 spot in our category this entire year: our 3month
EPC is $22 and our 7day EPC is currently $36. (While EPC is only relevant
within CJ, it allows us to attract new affiliates.)
10) For those who are interested in working with you and your affiliate program
- what options exist and where can they learn more about your program?
To learn more about our program, you may apply directly via Commission Junction
(cj.com) or read
more about us.
If you have any questions about our program or anything mentioned in this
interview, you are also welcome to contact me directly at 415-644-0810 x 212
or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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