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    GPWA Dan is offline Former Staff Member
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    Default Affiliate Manager Interview Series: James Woods – bet365

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    How did bet365 do during the World Cup? How does World Cup betting compare to something like Champions League betting?

    The World Cup went well for us in terms of the levels of business we saw and customers seemed to enjoy the increased markets, both pre-match and In-Play, that we were offering.

    In terms of how it differs from something like the Champions League, the main difference would be that all the World Cup games in most countries were live on television, which does make it more accessible.

    We know you're very passionate about bet365's casino product. What differentiates the bet365 casino from others in the market?

    Our approach is clearly different. Casino is a very important product to bet365 – one that serves our direct casino customers and that caters to our customers who cross over from sports or poker.

    To compete for direct casino customers our casino product has to be good. The directly accessed casino landing pages need to convert and the variety and quality of games needs to stand up against the best casino-only operators. To turn the visitors into customers the promotions need to be exciting and competitive, while being balanced well between acquisition promotions and retention promotions.

    For crossover customers from our other products, our casino needs to be convenient (single wallet), provide value and deliver an exciting experience.

    For both types of customers we need to have all of the latest branded slots (including Tomb Raider, Superman, Hulk and Gladiator) and games (Deal or No Deal, Monopoly, X Factor, Golden Balls and more) to keep them playing with bet365.

    Our dedicated casino team has delivered on these objectives and we are seeing results in stronger conversions, higher average player lifetime value and increasing numbers of active player days. When we think we have it right, we circle back and look for ways to improve it further. All of this translates into better earnings for our affiliates.

    When discussing our casino it is impossible not to tie in the offering of our games product which has developed alongside our casino offering. For players the transition between the two products is seamless and with games they have access to over 100 more games of chance and skill. Combined, bet365’s variety of games sets us apart from most casinos on the market and provides greater entertainment for players and additional revenue opportunities for affiliates.

    I believe that the bet365 approach to casino management is reflected in our success at the EGR Awards in London, where we won the Casino Operator of the Year Award.

    bet365 is known mostly for being a sports betting site. From a branding standpoint, what difficulties do you run into in terms of publicizing the poker, casino and bingo sides of your business?

    I believe it to be positive that bet365 is associated with being a leading sports brand. I strongly believe in overall branding, especially in regard to Web sites for whom trust is a key factor from the consumer perspective.

    I feel that once you build a strong brand you have already achieved trust, and to a certain extent that trust transcends product boundaries, so first of all I think that from a branding standpoint the sports brand is a positive factor. Customers are comfortable being with the strength and stability of the market-leading sports brand. They know they are going to get fantastic customer service.

    On the general publicizing of the poker, bingo and casino sides of the business, we have a massive brand presence for our bingo product as well, given the prime-time TV campaigns we run on a regular basis.

    The success of the casino over the last year qualified our decision to run the first-ever bet365 casino TV ad throughout Q4. I also think that the recent Casino Operator of the Year Award bet365 picked up will go some way toward cementing our status as a leading casino brand.

    We continue to maintain a strong presence in print publications for poker.

    Furthermore, we have over 5 million customers. Therefore we also have a huge amount of opportunity to publicize our gaming products to existing sports customers and vice versa. This alone offers significant opportunity for the overall bet365 brand.

    In terms of the size of business, how do the poker, bingo and casino units compare to the sports betting at bet365?

    In terms of the size of the business overall, we are the U.K.’s seventh-largest private company, and are forecasted to enjoy another year of double-digit growth for 2010 to 2011. We have experienced double-digit growth every year since the company was started.

    Sports continues to be our biggest product, representing around 65 percent of revenues. However, because of the size of our operation the 35 percent that gaming represents would still make these products bigger than most of our competitors. This is forecasted to continue to grow.

    While obviously bet365 has always been seen as a sports brand, the emphasis we have placed on our gaming products for the last few years continues to ensure that the overall share of revenues held by these products increases as the company progresses.

    Is it common for your customers, who start betting in one area (say sports, or casino) to cross over into other gaming verticals?

    The strength of our overall brand and the brands of our various products, coupled with our strong CRM tactics and co-departmental cooperation in this area, mean that we experience fantastic cross-product conversion.

    We constantly tie our promotions for all products into key events for certain products. We do this repeatedly, in order to build familiarity among our customers. This prepares them for regularly being opened up to the prospect of using our other products, through engaging with specific promotions.

    Some of the most successful bet365 affiliates are partners that leverage our prolificacy in this area by qualifying the prospective customers for this beforehand. They do this by way of collectively anchoring any promotion of us around the fact that we are a provider of a multitude of strong products. These affiliates achieve the best overall player values, although even our player values for specific products alone are a lot stronger than those of many of our competitors that put their figures into the public domain.

    It is important to draw on the strengths of each product individually, of course, but to ultimately carry the overall message that we are a provider of gaming and sports ensures users are even more receptive to the messages they receive from us after the point of conversion to a depositing player.

    Given our one-wallet system the more our affiliates do to monetize those revenue streams the better their affiliation with bet365.

    However, it is important to be clear that at bet365 we believe that customers know what they want, and that the operator should endeavor to ensure, first and foremost, that customer needs are catered to. We have experienced great success through making sure our customers’ primary needs are more than catered to and find that this customer-centric approach yields good results for us in the long term.

    What are three facts about bet365 that you think would surprise most affiliates?

    1) The company is still family owned, with Denise and John Coates as the Chief Executives. It means that the company has a culture of ensuring a huge amount of passion for everything that we do, as the ethos transcends the fairly lateral layout of the company from the very top.

    2) We are the U.K.’s seventh-largest private company.

    3) The owners of bet365 also own Stoke City FC (a Premier League club, for affiliates unfamiliar with the Premiership).

    What differentiates bet365 Affiliates from other affiliate programs?

    I am sure that every affiliate program does have its strengths and weaknesses, and I am sure that these strengths and weaknesses are to a certain extent conducive to an individual’s own opinions and experiences.

    Therefore, I believe a more effective way of answering this question is to describe the strengths of the affiliate program at bet365. Then let GPWA readers decide for themselves.

    In focusing on the strengths of bet365 one of the first things that springs to mind is the structural changes we have gone through this year.

    We have strengthened and boosted the team so we are able to provide even greater service. Furthermore, we also have many new collective strategies in place that are benefiting bet365 affiliates. The fact that we have recently strengthened the team also means that as a collective we are still really fresh. Therefore we have a team full of personnel brimming with ideas and passion, consistently considering how we can drive the program forward and continually better it for our affiliates. The team is hugely passionate about growing the revenues of the existing affiliate bases under their control as well communicating the benefits of bet365 affiliation to new partners. I don’t think there is another affiliate program out there at the moment with such a comprehensively fresh outlook.

    The team has a good deal of industry experience outside of the affiliate world to bring to the table. So not only do we understand the affiliate space, we understand what it is like from the point of view of the players. This is through collective experience of betting shop management, fraud and risk management, offline poker events, offline casino croupier management, customer services management, design and publishing planning and execution, betting support, trading, and live streaming of key sporting events. This is in conjunction with the mixture of marketing experience within our team (affiliate/network/agency/in-house).

    I hope that GPWA readers will agree that in terms of overall gambling industry knowledge combined with marketing expertise, together we offer a compelling mix.

    Furthermore, given that we are still a privately owned, family-run company, we have at bet365 a directorship that despite their obvious responsibilities takes a keen and proactive approach with regard to what more we can do to make the program stand out. As a result of this high-level input the bet365 affiliate program is a huge focus for the company overall. The benefits of this can be seen in the tools available.

    We offer bet365 affiliates seven-day support.

    We know that our payments are among the best that affiliates have on offer, with timely payments being made to affiliates via regular payment runs.

    Furthermore, without giving away too much, the affiliate team at bet365 will be going through further positive changes throughout financial year 2011-2012, which will only serve to benefit affiliates new and existing even more.

    What’s more difficult — attracting players or retaining them?

    If you retain players well, yielding a high average player value and long player lifetimes, the activities related to attracting players become a whole lot easier. The average value of a player is directly linked to the amount you can invest to acquire him or her.

    If you enjoy high average player value you can afford to bid for top positions on paid search, secure prime media placements and reward your affiliates with net higher revenues. If your affiliates are earning more promoting your product than they yield from the same effort for a competitor, they will work harder to drive you players and recommend your program to other affiliates.

    The focus of our product team’s efforts is to continually drive player retention and yield.

    How can affiliates help in retaining players?

    For many affiliates this is difficult. If your affiliate referral model is purely to attract players to your site (via SEO, for example) and bounce them off quickly to one of your sponsors, then the opportunities to contribute to retention will be limited for the affiliate.

    For affiliates to contribute to retention they need to become a part of the conversation with the players. By this I mean that their site(s) need to offer the players additional value and content worthy of their repeat visit and/or their membership.

    Affiliates who have incorporated a proposition for their visitors to be engaged in a community have found that the channels of communication this offers them with their players on an ongoing basis provides many opportunities to inform players of current promotions and to assist in encouraging and rewarding their loyalty.

    To assist in this regard, bet365 provides a steady stream of loyalty promotions and rewards for players and communicates these to the affiliates regularly. Affiliates who take part in this and have a dialogue with their members are leading the pack in terms of affiliate earnings.

    I’d like to invite affiliates who are interested in discussing effective strategies to improve their site(s) to promote retention to contact me. We are here to help. However, if your affiliate model is strictly to drive traffic (as it is for many of our top affiliates), rest assured that our retention team will ensure that your referred players are notified and encouraged to take part in all of our retention promotions.

    What are the three most important attributes an affiliate manager must have in order to be successful?

    Being personable, professional and attentive to your affiliates are baseline requirements for the job. To be truly successful however, an affiliate manager needs to be:

    1) Results-driven. This is a game of numbers and for both the business he represents and the affiliates upon whom he relies; it will all boil down to results at the end of the month.

    2) Organized. When allocating his time he needs to be conscious of the likelihood of those actions yielding results. Too many opportunities are lost due to a lack of follow-up or a missed deadline.

    3) Analytical and have a solid understanding of the various revenue models of each product, the recent conversion statistics, the average player values, the profitability of each acquisition channel, the contributing factors to lifetime value, etc.

    To truly excel, an affiliate manager would seek to develop the same level of understanding of the numbers relative to his/her affiliates business. Affiliate managers need to understand that affiliates have costs too, and by understanding this we can work to improve their margins.

    How long have you been in the online gambling industry? Why did you decide to enter the field?

    I started working in online in 2006 and in online gambling and affiliate in 2007.

    The Internet was first becoming prolific when I left school. I set about choosing a degree course that would provide me with the knowledge of online in theory and production that I desired while still being recognizable as a strong degree based on the institution it was achieved at. Given the “newness” of courses in online there were a lot of substandard courses around. I targeted a BA in Interactive Media Production at Bournemouth Media School, the only center of excellence for media practice in the U.K.

    I had been awaiting an opportunity at a solid operation, and when the opportunity at bet365 arose in June 2009, I was committed to securing it and haven’t looked back..

    I wanted to join the online gambling industry because I was drawn by the excitement and entertainment it offers people in comparison with other Internet commercial channels. It makes me love each day at work dealing with such interesting and engaging products in such a competitive and fast-paced environment.

    I love affiliate marketing because of the near-instantaneous gratification offered to my desire to see the success, or failure, of tangible changes my actions effect, through creativity, negotiation and passion. Again, I find the competition we are constantly engaged in with the other operators thrilling.

    Finally, I enjoy the exposure on a day-to-day basis to such a diverse array of friendly and interesting entrepreneurs and professionals.

    What advice do you have to someone just starting in the industry?

    Love the industry you are in first, as it is an amazing place to be. Once you have that love and passion, you will want to progress. Channel that desire aggressively into hard work.

    Try not to concern yourself too much with a work-life balance. You can have that if you get somewhere (and if you don’t). While you are building your reputation, balance isn’t important, and for some people it’s never important. The really successful people in the industry always seem to be “on call” regardless of time and place, judging from the timings of certain e-mail, calls and messenger chats.

    Luckily for people who enjoy dealing with the products, work and projects carried out in this industry can often transcend the more noticeable boundary between business and pleasure that is absolutely prevalent in many industries. This is due to the aforementioned inherent passion for gambling products (and the industry as a whole) fundamental to being a successful affiliate manager or affiliate.

    It is also important to identify people whom you respect, listen to the advice that they give you, and apply to it to your work and your actions. Ask people’s advice when you aren’t sure what to do, as ultimately you will be respected more for it. Never be arrogant or pretend to know things that you don’t.

    Finally, to quote a genius, don’t be afraid of the occasional error: “If you don’t make mistakes, you don’t make anything!”

    Affiliates and affiliate program managers have several things in common. One of them is their e-mail inboxes are always full. How long do you give yourself for responding to e-mail? And what e-mail management tips can you offer?

    It is so important to have a strategy for dealing with this, and my current strategy is the result of the last few years of honing my organization skills. This obviously means it is fairly individual, and the best tip I can give is to find something that works for you.

    For overall insight, it varies and I base it on the urgency of the content in the e-mail. I also employ something called the three-minute rule. Any e-mail that takes less than three minutes to respond to I deal with then and there where possible, as it’s quicker than categorizing and flagging for a later date.

    On this point, the entire affiliate operations endeavors from my end are basically controlled by categories, flags, folders and calendars, centered around the main inbox.
    Nothing ever leaves the main inbox until it is completely closed. The main inbox is always basically a hotbed of ongoing negotiations, problems and projects.

    I then work through my e-mail based on category and priority.

    I would be interested in other GPWA members’ e-mail organization techniques as I am always looking for ways in which to further optimize my organization.

    Most of the affiliate managers we talk to say building trust with their affiliates is critical to success. How do you go about building trust with your affiliates?

    I think the best way to build trust with affiliates is to ensure that the way you behave toward your affiliates doesn’t falter or change over time. If you want to be known as being enthusiastic, always be enthusiastic. If you want to be known as being responsive, always be responsive, etc.

    I think that once affiliates get used to a certain type of behavior from you as their affiliate manager they feel familiar with you, and this is where the trust is first generated.

    Additionally, I always encourage phone use within my team and employ phone calls at every available opportunity. Given the global nature of our business, it is difficult to always be available for face-to-face meetings. However, scheduling calls where you can with your affiliates, both proactively and reactively, assists in the creation of trust.

    Affiliates will (a) know that you have time for them, (b) know that you are answering any questions they direct at you on the fly and not using canned responses and (c) get to know you more personally by the conversational nature of a spoken dialogue.

    Where inevitable issues arise from time to time, I always first offer a phone call to affiliates, as is visible on the GPWA forum. I leave my mobile phone number everywhere so that affiliates always know that they can call me if they need to.

    The key point with all of the above is to adopt a consistent approach.

    Besides trust, what are the keys to building successful relationships between affiliates and affiliate programs?

    Timely payments, an intuitive platform, good, straightforward reporting, and useful and necessary updates and roll-outs on a continuous basis.

    This needs to be underpinned by strong products and good player-facing offers.

    An overall company focus on the affiliate program and its affiliates has gone a long way to assisting us in facilitating and maintaining strong affiliate relationships.
    Do you gamble yourself? Were you an online player before getting into the industry?

    I used to a great deal more prior to joining the industry. I am now satisfied to a certain extent simply by working with all of the main gambling products every single day. I still visit the casino regularly and play poker when I can.

    You have something in common with GPWA Times Managing editor Vin Narayanan: you typically have a lot of applications open at the same time on your computer. For those who can't understand the beauty of working with 14 to 16 applications open, please extol its virtues.

    When I switch my PC on in the morning I don’t set out to open as many applications as possible. As the day progresses, priorities shift and the application toll increases.

    If I have started something during the day and yet have not finished it, and something else takes precedence, I leave the original task open to ensure that when I am wrapping up the day I am fully aware of the progress made with each of the tasks I started during that day. Then I can choose whether to stay and do them based on individual importance or push them back to the next day.

    My time is split between back office and front office, and more often than not the back-office tasks (Excel, strategic planning, monitoring figures, etc.) are proactive, self-imposed endeavors, which affords me the luxury of being able to occasionally leave them in the background and focus on something else where necessary.

    If you could have dinner with three other people, living or dead, who would they be?

    I would invite Max Ehrmann as I think the excellent “Desiderata” is a really life-affirming text and it would be interesting to know from where he drew inspiration.

    For similar reasons I would invite Paulo Coelho, as The Alchemist is a brilliant book and its metaphorical subject matter means the journey in it can basically be applied to any challenge or journey undertaken by anyone reading it.

    Finally, I would invite Bugsy Siegel, as I am hugely interested in the history of Las Vegas given that this year I visited for the first time. It would be engaging to hear him recount firsthand how he convinced the Mob to invest in a casino in what was then a little-known desert town, a precursor to the great city that exists there today.

    What is the last book you read? Did you enjoy it?

    The last three books I read are Affiliate/Affiliate Manager: A Study of Mutually Beneficial Co-dependency with a View to Long-term Profit, How to Win Affiliates and Influence Retention Managers and Awaken the Superaffiliate Within: How to Take Immediate Control of Your SEO, Promotional, Metaphysical and Financial Destiny.

    So those books don’t actually exist at the moment (and consider the above printed paragraph copyrighted!), but I spend a lot of time reading factual books rooted in overall business and management insights, as well as insightful, life-affirming books when I can. To be completely honest some of this stuff makes me cringe, and some of it is absolutely invaluable. Either way, I wouldn’t want to list the titles here for the aforementioned reasons! If anyone reading this has any recommendations on these subjects please e-mail them to me.

    The last fictitious book I read was The Stand, by Stephen King. It was absolutely epic and its terrifying apocalyptic narrative is highly recommended for fans of the genre.

    What is your favorite movie?

    Had I been answering this a few months ago, I would have listed some firm favorites of the last 10 years of my life. I tend to like edgy, dark films. Anything from David Fincher, Martin Scorsese (his older work, although The Departed was good courtesy of an outstanding Jack Nicholson performance), Stanley Kubrick, even Wes Craven (again the older work).

    However, I recently returned from a trip to Vegas, and the previous allure of dark subject matter has been for the most part shattered.

    So I give you the outstanding The Hangover, a great film and a modern classic in my opinion!

    If you had a theme song, what would it be?

    A song I tend to listen to fairly regularly is “Feeling Good” by Nina Simone, so if I had to choose something it would be this. It’s a great song and one which will always encourage a mood reflecting its title no matter what your mood beforehand.

    If someone is visiting you, what's the one place you have to take them to see?

    Since moving to Stoke-on-Trent, I have been introduced to oatcakes, a local delicacy that I have never seen in London. An oatcake is basically almost like a savory pancake, but you have it folded in half and then filled with cheese, bacon and mushrooms (for example).

    Given that I have been mentioning them to my friends and family back home, whenever anyone comes to visit me the first thing he or she wants to do is visit the local café to experience one....

    Once someone visiting me has tried one, he or she too becomes hooked and therefore for repeat visitors the one place they have to go remains the same....

    The consistency of these trips when I have visitors means that the answer to this question is (and will continue to be) the local café for a proper Staffordshire oatcake. Any affiliate visiting Stoke is welcome to see what the fuss is about.

    What are three things that no one knows about you?

    Three things that absolutely no one knows about me by now are probably three things that should remain that way.

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    tryme's Avatar
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    Good interview James... say HI to the team and remember to say Hi to Fred.... I miss the Monday nights down in Stoke
    Simon Eaton - Online marketing consultancy with 20 years experience

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    Nice interview James.................

    Once you come to my neck of the woods in Jerusalem,Israel your oatcakes here sound just like the good old crepes we eat!!!,1-...crepes,FF.html

    Have a great up and coming weekend


    SKYPE= ironman20001

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    Niti Nielsen is offline Public Member
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    Great Interview!
    Ace Revenue

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    James_W is offline Public Member
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    Thank you for the nice comments.

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