Megan Sagriff, VP of Sales at YTZ, gives an exclusive interview to SiGMA News as part of our latest series on affiliates
How did you first get into the affiliate space, and were you always focused on the iGaming sector?
I had zero experience with affiliate marketing when I stumbled into the space. I was fresh out of university with two degrees and no real job prospects. I ended up taking a position as an executive assistant to the then CEO of YTZ. There weren’t enough administrative tasks to keep me busy so I started helping out in different departments of the company, learning the ropes. Within a year I joined the marketing team. Fast forward 10 years; I’m now the VP of Sales. Throughout my tenure we’ve operated in a lot of different verticals but we only got serious about iGaming a few years ago. With the affiliate business constantly changing we felt like we needed to refocus our efforts on a vertical that could bring more long lasting stability.
How is your affiliate business structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
In part we operate as a traditional affiliate network, connecting publishers with operators. We set up deals for each casino brand, implement tracking and then provide our publishers with media kits to promote the brands. Our focus is on providing casino campaigns on a Cost Per Lead basis. This puts more of the risk on us but also gives us more flexibility with rates.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
Our focus is Tier 1 English speaking markets. There’s obviously a ton of potential in high volume markets like LATAM and Southeast Asia. I’m particularly interested in Thailand and Vietnam. We’ve been cultivating some good traffic sources there for over a year now and we’re finally starting to see the fruits of that.
What makes your traffic proposition / traffic sites unique? What can you offer that others don’t? Are there any exciting plans in the works that you can tell us about?
Our technology definitely gives us an edge. The ability to gauge player value ourselves is a huge advantage. It means we can be confident in the traffic we’re sending. It’s especially advantageous to have a good baseline when launching new brands and markets. This year we’re continuing to work on our technology, expanding our active markets and onboarding new partners.
Is the grass greener on the other side - Have you considered giving white label casino or sports betting a go?
We have thought about it. It could be an option for us down the road. Right now we’re focused on other things.
Are you concerned by the impact on the affiliate sector from shifting regulatory environments? (In particular UKGC, Sweden’s Spelinspektionen, and Germany’s 2020 State Treaty on Gaming Regulation)
Not really. We’re used to the landscape changing and adapting our business practices as needed.
What is the main thing that you’d like SiGMA readers to know about your traffic? Are you focusing on SEO? PPC? Any other traffic source?
We’ve been in the affiliate marketing space a long time, so we have access to a wide range of traffic sources that operators wouldn’t otherwise have access to. We mostly work with direct mailers, site owners, ad networks and media buyers. This is almost entirely on a performance basis. Push and email were our top traffic sources in 2019.
Are you contemplating bringing in investors to scale or grow your business? Or, with such a big M&A market, have you ever contemplated selling the business?
If we fine-tune our technology to a point where we feel like we have a really unique product we could package and sell then that could be an interesting opportunity. As for the business itself, we’re a small collaborative team of experienced marketers/developers/media buyers. We enjoy what we do. We’re not looking to be bought out.
What can operators do to increase support from affiliates?
Share more information about player activity. Information is currency. The good guys, the ones in it for the long haul, want to provide good quality players. We can only do that with honest feedback. The quicker we get feedback the sooner we can scale the good sources and cut the bad ones. Frequent and open communication is really important.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
Patience, flexibility, creativity, and the ability to adapt quickly. Being sociable helps too, both with colleagues and clients. It can be a draining and time consuming business but it’s a fun business as well.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
For us it’s the backbone of everything. Our system is completely proprietary. Everything from reporting to ad serving and optimisation is built in-house. We rely on real-time stats, as do our publishers. The accuracy and granularity of the data we send and receive is very important. It gives us a leg up on competitors and allows us to deliver quality leads to our partners.
How is the Asian market shaping-up for affiliates?
It still seems to be largely untapped. I don’t think anyone’s really figured it out. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe there are some affiliates out there absolutely crushing it in Indonesia right now. Who knows? But It's definitely an exciting market.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
I wish I immediately understood everything there is to know about tracking.
What’s been your biggest nightmare to date?
Tracking. After a couple of years working with different affiliate software I got the hang of it. Now that I’ve got a handle on it I find that often the biggest barrier to getting a new partner live is tracking. A shocking number of casino operators and affiliate managers are lost when it comes to tracking implementation.
What are the challenges in managing relationships with multiple operators?
Time-zones can be an issue, especially in the initial stages of setup. Operators are located all over the world and it can be an arduous process negotiating new deals, implementing tracking links and going live. Ideally the whole process takes a day or two but I’ve experienced it take upwards of a month. Managing operators using different affiliate software can be difficult as well. NetRefer, Myaffiliates, MAP, etc., each has its own quirks and limitations. Working on various commission structures across accounts is challenging. Some markets or brands are better suited for one type of commission deal over another.
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
Face-to-face interaction is always beneficial for any business relationship. Most of my communication with partners is via Skype or through email so it’s good to speak to people in person. Our goal when attending these events is to meet existing partners. It’s a bonus if we can meet fellow affiliates that we’re able to have sign up to our network. Manoeuvring the exhibition hall can be difficult. I usually spend my time running from meeting to meeting and often get turned around. It would be nice to have more prominent visuals overhead to indicate booth numbers.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?
I attended SiGMA Malta in 2018. It was my first iGaming conference. I would consider Manila if I thought there was value in attending. We’ll probably attend SiGMA Malta again in a year or so. We tend to focus on affiliate conferences more than iGaming specifically.
Tell us a bit about yourself – after all business is done between people, not just companies!
I love travelling around Asia. The weather is amazing. Food is great. The people and culture are so carefree and laid back.
Favourite book you look forward to read some day?
Admittedly I’m not a big reader. But I did recently order The Ride of a Lifetime by Robert Iger which I’m looking forward to.
“You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
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