SiGMA News joins Toby Oddy, CEO and founder at Digital Fuel Marketing for a cracking Affiliate Grand Slam interview on what's next in the world of affiliation.
How did you first get into the affiliate space, and were you always focused on the iGaming sector?
I first got into the iGaming affiliate space when the affiliate market began to gain momentum, that was around 2000. At the time I worked for a leading operator, and a few colleagues were moving in to the affiliate space – this was pre-Google! Acquisition came from predominantly natural search traffic at the time. I set up Digital Fuel Marketing in 2013, and the agency draws on our iGaming expertise to help our iGaming clients acquire and retain new customers.
How is your affiliate business structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
Our affiliate business has three parts; a publisher network of sites that we are currently building out; an affiliate network where we have affiliate deals; and thirdly we manage the affiliate programmes of several leading operators. We are always focussed on growing the affiliate programmes of our clients, and ensuring they maximise their NGR. We are also currently focussed on our publisher network of sites and both our design and content teams are putting in the hours to develop these, watch out for a US site launch soon!
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
We focus on regulated markets; we have established our business in both the UK and Australia, as well as a presence in other regulated areas. We are now licenced to operate in three US states; New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Indiana. The US is a massive opportunity and one that Digital Fuel Marketing has been focussed on since 2017.
I also see a lot of potential in South America and Asia. Canada’s current discussion of regulating sports betting is also interesting; sports betting in Canada would be a natural progression for the iGaming industry.
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?
We have multiple products beyond traffic sites. My business Digital Fuel Marketing has an affiliate network which we are excited about! We also do a lot of affiliate management and help operators make their affiliate programmes profitable.
We see our affiliate network growing in emerging markets as they are regulated. We are also working with our customers to enter them into new markets as we see the opportunities opening up for them.
Is the grass greener on the other side - Have you considered giving white label casino or sports betting a go?
I have no ambition to become an operator, the majority of Digital Fuel Marketing’s clients are operators and we see this as a potential conflict of interest. We are a full-service digital marketing agency for the iGaming industry, we offer many services to our clients.
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?
I want SigMA readers to know about our affiliate network! If they are an operator, they can come on board and add an offer, and if they are an affiliate they can join.
They can sign up on our online platform: https://affiliates.digitalfuel.com.au/
I have also employed a fantastic team of affiliate managers at Digital Fuel Marketing, who have over 50 years combined experience in iGaming. If you are an operator reading this and would like support managing your affiliate programme, please do get in touch with us.
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?
iGaming is a fast-paced constantly evolving business. M&A has played a massive part in growth in the past few years. As I look to grow Digital Fuel Marketing, I am always open to speak to people about joint ventures and any investment.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
When hiring our affiliate management team at Digital Fuel Marketing, I look for four key qualities; good communication skills, self-management, analytical thinking and a personable, friendly manner. Relationships are key in the affiliate business, and if your team possess all the aforementioned skills they are in a good position to deliver great affiliate management.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
Digital Fuel Marketing has three offices around the globe; Norwich, Brighton and Sydney. We also have a presence in the US, and employees who work remotely in Spain, Gibraltar and London. We rely on technology to ensure we can constantly communicate and manage projects remotely. Remote-working tools such as Slack and Asana help to keep us connected.
We also utilise software to run our affiliate network, and the affiliate programmes we work with. We use both HasOffers and MyAffiliates every day to track the affiliate programmes we manage, and as a platform to present publishers offers to affiliates.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
I have always been creative and tend to communicate too much… well talk too much if we’re being honest!
When starting out, I wish I had known the importance of business accounting. It is an area I have had to really improve on personally. Business accounting has been vital over my years in business and is the key to having a successful business. I would advise anyone to make sure they know the numbers and also how accounting works in a real business, from planning to reporting.
What’s been your biggest nightmare to date?
Our biggest nightmare has been growth - if you can call this a nightmare! Growth opens up lots of issues; around visa’s, licences, tax and more. I am very lucky to have a very strong team working for Digital Fuel Marketing, this has allowed us to scale rapidly across 4 continents whilst maintaining our core values and delivering exceptional service to our clients within the iGaming sector.
What are the challenges in managing relationships with multiple operators?
One of the main challenges is when people move on to a new role. You build a relationship with people not brands, when that person moves to a new business – you have to build the relationship again within the departed persons company.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?
Yes, I have been to both and would attend both again.
Tell us a bit about yourself – after all business is done between people, not just companies!
I was brought up on market stalls in London, Essex and Kent. Starting out on markets taught me the value of hard work and how to deal with people. Face to face communication is a key skill in business, and working with the public on the stalls taught me valuable lessons I have come to rely on in later in life, as well as how to strike fair deals.
I have been in the digital space since leaving school. I have been a coder, a salesperson, but most importantly I am a leader. I have built, bought, sold businesses, made and lost money along the way. With every business, I have learned a great deal and still continue to get excited about learning every day.
Claim to fame, my first business was a furniture delivery business when I could not even drive! I hired drives to do all the deliveries. I also owned and set up the biggest (at the time) home working call centre selling holiday on Teletext. We pioneered late availability holidays.
Over the last 20 years, I have focussed on iGaming. I was part of the original team at Mansion who helped set the business up. At Tote, I worked to take them online and ensure their digital marketing was compliant in order for their sale to Betfred. At Ladbrokes, I headed up the digital marketing team and completed a refresh of their brand and online gaming platforms. Then at Coral I was recruited to transform Coral online and implement a new gaming and sports betting platform, I also managed brand and digital marketing channels for both acquisition and retaining customers.
7 years ago, I founded Digital Fuel Marketing. The Digital Fuel team is drawn from the cutting edge of digital marketing. I am proud of the team I have hired and who continue to grow the business, we bring to the table our decades of experience working with big brands; managing their big budgets, to achieve big targets.
We get that you need a holistic perspective across all the acquisition channels, be it PPC, mobile or the new channels that are opening up in the digital space. You need to understand your bang for buck, where ever that bang happens.