Affiliate Grand Slam: Meet Simon Jones

Simon Jones, Managing Director at Best Bingo Websites, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam

By offering great information on bingo and online casino websites, Best Bingo Websites has become well known within the industry. Simon Jones and Best Bingo Websites are now super focused on opportunities in other countries within the Online Casino space, whilst strengthening their position at home.

How did your affiliate business take off? And, is iGaming your only vertical?

I founded Best Bingo Websites in late 2019 to scratch an itch really. I wanted to see how the SEO landscape has changed over the last few years and more importantly to see if I could create a brand new affiliate site that would rank in Google. With the latest round of Google algorithm updates in 2020, it’s been an interesting journey so far, but we’re getting there. And no, iGaming isn’t the only vertical I’m working on. That’s another story!

Simon Jones Affiliate Grand Slam Best Bingo Websites SiGMA Simon Jones, Managing Director at Best Bingo Websites.

How did you first get into the affiliate space? And, were you always focused on the Gaming space?

I fell into the affiliate space, to be honest, and particularly iGaming back in 2012 when I was approached by the owner of WhichBingo to help him grow the business, which sold to XLMedia in 2018.

Before I got into iGaming, I was involved with a number of digital marketing agencies, working on clients as diverse as sports giant Adidas to some of the world's largest financial institutions.

What can operators do to increase support with affiliates?

Operators who support affiliates and treat them more like business partners are the ones who truly stand out. Some of the operator affiliate teams I work with now (and those who are still in the industry) have become friends, and those are the ones that resonate with me. Having an operator who stands behind you and supports your business is super important. Unfortunately, some operators don’t give enough focus or support to their affiliate teams and I think there’s room for improvement in this area.

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?

Never say never as they say. I don’t have any plans for bringing in investors or have any plans to sell just yet, but like anything in life, there’s always a chance it might happen.

Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?

With my previous experience at WhichBingo, getting the right team together was incredibly important. It might sound obvious, but when I joined the business in 2012, the right team wasn’t in place and it took me a few years to get the ‘A-Team’ just right. Building a team which has true autonomy with a super-focused vision isn’t easy, but we got there and the proof was when it was sold to XLMedia. I’m proud to say that we were truly in our element and we built a very successful affiliate bingo brand in the UK. I’m hoping to replicate this success with the other affiliate businesses I’m working with.

Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?

We’re pretty much focused on the bingo and casino market in the UK at the moment, with a view to opening up to other GEOs over time. It’ll be interesting to see how other markets emerge across different regions, particularly in Japan and India. Do they even play bingo there?

Is the grass greener on the other side - Have you considered giving white label casino or sports betting a go?

Great question. I’ve been involved in running white label casinos in the past but not sports betting. There are many lessons learned from running white label casinos, and one of the biggest was down to building a brand. Without committing to big budgets for creating and building a brand you end up being just another white label casino with no real USP or brand proposition. That doesn’t fit with me, coming from a brand marketing background.

How has the fragmentation of regulated markets affected your business? UKGC, Swedish regulator and now also the German regulator is mulling regulating this space.

Our main focus at the moment is the UK, so we’re used to being regulated to the max. However, with other countries opting for their own regulations in an attempt to protect players from unlicensed brands, it seems to be having the opposite effect with players seeking bonus offers from unlicensed affiliates. Whilst the UK has undoubtedly the largest population of online bingo players there are still opportunities in other countries we’re looking super-focused at. However, I’m cautious of the “gold-rush” other affiliates are making into the US because I really don’t think there is the appetite for bingo players to play bingo online - yet!

What are the main challenges for the sector in 2020?

I think the main challenge for the sector as a whole has to be around the current global pandemic. Sportsbook operators have had to change their focus from betting on live sports to areas like esports, virtual sports and casino games. How they manage their brand reputation with their customers by offering alternative products is going to be both challenging and rewarding for some, I hope. It’s a big challenge and it will be interesting to see which operator brands come through this and how their focus will change after lockdown.

What are your predictions for the future of the sector?

It’s been said many times before and it continues to be a topic of discussion with many, but the personalisation of customer’s needs still needs to be addressed. As we move closer to better voice search, customers will come to expect instant and accurate information based on their personal needs.

Yorkshire hills.

What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?

For our industry the main events like ICE and LAC have now become ‘must-attend’ occasions, just like SiGMA in Malta has now become. Being able to arrange one-to-one meetings with operators is our main focus as well as being able to drop in to see people you’ve not seen for a while.

Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?

I’ve been to all the SiGMA events in Malta since they started and they’ve just got better. I have some ex-colleagues who now live in Malta so I don’t really need an excuse to go.

Tell us a bit about yourself - after all, business is done with people, not just companies!

When I’m not working I’m usually out running or mountain biking in the hills of Yorkshire in England. I’ve just got back into enduro motorbiking again too, so I’m looking to get out on some trails and maybe enter a few competitions.

What’s on your must-read list right now?

I’ve started reading some of the “Do” series of books recently, and next on my list is “Do Disrupt: Change the Status Quo or Become it” by Mark Shayler.

Which quote do you live your life by?

“A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

 

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