As part of The Drum Network’s mission to share our members’ expertise with the wider world, we’re happy to present the latest in a series of our ’10 questions with...’ series, this time featuring insights from Lee-Ann Johnstone, founder of AffiliateInsider.
What was your first ever job?
I started out in a call centre for a mutual fund company and I hated every minute of it. I quickly decided to change tack and moved over to marketing, where I did offline marketing and events management. Around this time (late 90s) the internet was becoming a thing and I was curious about that. I chucked in my well-paid head of marketing job and took an entry-level junior account management role in a digital media buying team to learn all I could about the world of online marketing. From there I was hooked on digital and eventually moved into affiliate marketing, where I found my passion and have remained for the better part of two decades learning more and more about this strategic channel.
Which industry buzzword annoys you most?
There are a few such as ‘black hat’ – no idea where that term was coined but surely we could have come up with a better one for describing bad improper tactics in SEO.
Who do you find most interesting to follow on social media?
I like a bit of Gary Vee every now and then, but I tend to follow marketers and thought leaders outside my own industry as I feel I learn more about the broader digital community vs just looking into my own areas of expertise. I love Brene Brown and her concept of being OK with being vulnerable. The digital marketing industry is incredibly competitive and pressurised and you need to be OK with making mistakes but learning from them too. Lately I find it easier to listen to podcasts as I’m working, as I seem to retain more information when multitasking.
Highlight of your career (so far)?
Launching my own media and affiliate marketing agency – AffliliateInsider. For the first time, I’m doing what I love and loving what I do. I help brands drive consistent sales through affiliate marketing. I help brands leverage digital knowledge to strategise and grow their affiliate channel and teams effectively. I’m a believer in ’the riches are in the niches’ and I have created a company that is highly niche focused. Every day I’m asked if I can do generic marketing support but I refuse because we do affiliate marketing only and we do it very well. I’ve learned in the past two years to stick to the script of what we do best and that’s what benefits our clients most.
What piece of tech can you not live without?
Analytics and CRM for marketing automation. I’m an utter lead generation campaign nerd. I love seeing how what we do and say and produce for our own business and that of our clients is performing. I listen to the output to define the strategy and plan for moving forwards. I look at the data a lot to form opinions, optimisation strategies and to make sure that our theory is working in practice.
Who or what did you have posters of on your bedroom wall as a teenager?
I had no posters – maybe this is a British thing? In South Africa we didn’t put posters up on walls as kids, we were too busy playing outside on the beach and riding our bikes around the neighborhood. I spent very little time inside my bedroom (other than to sleep) as a result of growing up in Cape Town.
If I had to chose a poster, it would have been something musical, like a Wham or Aha poster, I guess.
In marketing, what needs to change soon?
There is still a massive gap in senior marketers understanding the value of affiliate marketing as part of the digital marketing mix. For a long time affiliate marketing has sat on the fringes of company strategy like an ’add -on’.
A recent Forrester Survey posted by Pepperjam stated: almost 50% of marketers surveyed ranked a lack of understanding and Inertia in their firms on affiliate marketing’s potential and value as a top concern in this research. It is a complex channel and unless you immerse in it you won’t really understand how it can affect the rest of your marketing and enhance it.
I’m working to change this with my new AMPP program, which has been designed to help affiliate managers get the coaching they need to drive consistent affiliate revenue. It’s a practical, hands-on 12-week program (one hour per week) delivering the best of my knowledge gleaned over the past two decades (and counting).
What is (in your opinion) the greatest film/album/book of your life?
Books – there would be too many to mention, but I recently read SOSTAC planning and it literally changed the way I think about strategy. I’m currently reading about NLP as part of coaching in business and it’s absolutely fascinating how your thoughts can change the course of your action.
Which industry event can you not afford to miss each year and why?
Tough one. I go to so many – in my industry Affiliate Summit and IGB Affiliate are key events that I like to attend. This year we went virtual and had a thoroughly enjoyable time. I am also partial to pop up events like MadFEST or PI Live Global. I tend to go to conferences that have depth of content vs just networking as I want to keep learning what’s new and where our industry is heading.
What's the best piece of advice you have ever been given?
’Jump. The parachute will open.’
This one simple phrase started me on a journey of self discovery and lead me to where I am today, helping brands and affiliate managers harness the power of affiliate marketing. Its lead me to a life where I do what I love and I love what I do.
Lee-Ann Johnstone is a digital marketing strategist and affiliate management coach and founder of AffiliateInsider.