Toni Westerholm, CMO and co-founder at Good Luck Media, 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?
My background is in paid digital advertising and I started in a great agency called iProspect in Finland (they’re still going strong and are now part of a global agency called Dentsu Aegis Network). I got recruited to iGaming in 2014 – to work for then called iGame group.
I’ve been always interested in iGaming. I’m a good customer for Sportsbook operators and take hits in Casino as well (as one does), so getting the opportunity to work for iGaming leader like iGame (later acquired by Unibet, now Kindred Group) was a good fit.
From the beginning, I felt like there was a lot I could give in the industry while learning a lot about the product side and customer communication. I got my first touch into affiliate marketing when joining iGame, but I was still basically managing all other channels (like social, streaming, display, ppc, influencers).
I was lucky to learn a lot about the affiliate side of business by being close to guys like Shaun O’Neill (Now White Rabbit Entertainment, former head of Affiliates at iGame group) and Ville Sissonen (Now Good Game ltd, former manager of Pokerisivut and Pokeritieto).
How is your affiliate business structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
We started our company Good Luck Media concentrating on affiliate marketing in the iGaming sector in early 2018. My partners all have something unique to bring to the table. I like to think I’m taking things forward by constant data analysis, coming up with new ideas while following the market and what players actually want.
Saying that us being a smaller and leaner affiliate company as possible we all do still do everything. We love the grind!
Going forward we want to stay agile and lean. We have a lot of work to do in terms of processes and adjusting – but overall I think day-to-day we are all doing the right thing to grow the business every day. We are now 4 full-time employees, a few more or less full-time contractors and a bunch of freelancers.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
We focus on Finland and have a few projects this year targeting the United States and Canada. We acquired the US vendor license last year.
We discuss emerging markets and analyze, and then if we see potential we will go for it - especially other English speaking markets.
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 something for everyone!
- Highly converting organic casino traffic (search and social)
- Highly converting Pay n Play specific traffic
- Social casino and lottery traffic
- Organic lottery search traffic
- Generic organic search traffic
We discuss the sources openly with operators and decide which to use. All channels serve a purpose as a lot of new operators might also want more of a branding opportunity on our sites and social handles. We are also able to launch new sites (like pika-kasinot.com) on a quick notice.
Also, we are shortlisted in multiple iGaming awards and noticed in Finnish media as well. We consider ourselves as a trusted and open partner for operators.
Is the grass greener on the other side - Have you considered giving white label casino or sports betting a go?
All of us working now at Good Luck Media have experienced the operator side. It’s an intriguing thought always but we do love what we are doing now.
So, yes, we have considered it but for now we have no plans nor real passion to go that route.
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)
Yes. I hope other markets learn from Sweden where the totally black market is growing. Hopefully future regulation will be fair for all (player, operator, supplier, country). Local national-level regulation in Europe for iGaming is of course just a matter of time.
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 focus (let's say 90% of our work) on SEO. We have growing traffic sources elsewhere as well, as mentioned above.
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?
We are lucky to have good cash flow and a great set of current shareholders. Let’s see how the M&As are in the future in the iGaming sector, you never know!
What can operators do to increase support from affiliates?
It’s still a matter of basics like establishing good communication, providing material, pushing campaigns live and letting the affiliates know about them. Deeper level of this is data integration, content integration (odds, campaigns, jackpots, new slots etc).
Something that we have noticed that pushes us as well are affiliate campaigns. Kindred Group for example does good work on this.
Shortlisted for Best Affiliate Newcomer 2019.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
Overall digital marketing knowledge, good communication skills, relentlessness and data + number skills.
These have a little assumption in them. The first rule in marketing is always that you need to know the product. As an affiliate it’s rarely your product but the product that you’re selling. Get to know it, that will give you the insight how to sell it.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
Well its just everything, isn’t it. I look at data tables to get insights on what’s working and what is not. I run reports and audits to understand how an algorithm understands us and what we want to tell the potential customers about.
In broader sense it’s good to keep up as well. As a marketer you need to understand how people are using and consuming new technology.
How is the Asian market shaping-up for affiliates?
I have no real insight to offer to the Asian market. My partner went to a conference in Manila to learn plus we have asked around from our affiliate friends.
Of course it must offer a lot of potential and we would love to do something there.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
How to build authority in organic listings. SEO is a long game and sometimes with my background in paid digital advertising I need to see things happen now and not tomorrow.
What’s been your biggest nightmare to date?
A flaw in number data in an affiliate backend screwing up the numbers by moving the comma two points to the right in all numbers. What a let down!
What are the challenges in managing relationships with multiple operators?
Keeping up with the offers and having good on-going communication.
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
I love the big ones like the SiGMA conference in Malta. The benefits are definitely the chance to meet all the key stakeholders over a few days, scheduling meetings with new potential partners and seeing what’s happening in the industry overall.
There has been good remarks, especially around the SiGMA conference now vs. a few years back. The industry plays a big role in Malta so everybody is excited to get involved and that’s not a bad thing.
The big conferences can split the badges by groups more efficiently and incentivize industry leaders towards panel discussions.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?
I have been to SiGMA 5 years in a row now. My partner attended SiGMA in Manila and we also went to a SiGMA New Jersey event. It’s not an easy business for SiGMA to run but hopefully future conferences are in all relevant the places (Europe, North and South America, Asian markets).
My last one to Thailand together with my Girlfriend and Family.
Favourite book ever read?
Open by Andre Agassi.
Where would you relocate with family if you had to pick one city?
Perhaps Turku in Finland or New York.
“You miss 100% of the shots that you don’t take.”
Favourite sport and childhood idol?
Kari Takko #27.
Get to know other great affiliates, responsible for killer traffic! Click the link below to read more insights from affiliates:
About SiGMA Expo:
SiGMA 2020 Malta will take place November 17th - 19th 2020 at the Malta Fairs and Conventions Centre in Ta’ Qali. Positioned at the cutting edge of a very competitive industry, the event has evolved since 2014 into the definitive iGaming showcase, operating on both a European and world stage. In 2019, SiGMA’19 welcomed over 400 sponsors and exhibitors, 200 industry leading speakers and a record-breaking 15,000 attendees from over 80 countries, and in 2020 this staple in the global iGaming calendar is set to grow even bigger. To become a part of Europe's leading iGaming event, book a pass or sponsor & exhibit.
Our ground breaking Asian iGaming expo will be held in Manila, on the 27th & 28th of May 2021. SiGMA's largest venue to date will bring together high quality conferences and content, premium networking opportunities, and luxury networking event. 10,000 delegates from across Europe, the US, and Asia are expected to attend, making this one of the biggest shows to unite East and West in the region. To become a part of the fastest paced Asian iGaming event, book a pass or sponsor & exhibit.
For those planning to attend SiGMA events in 2020, this is the buzzing business environment to be expected: