John Wright CEO & Lead Designer at StatsDrone Inc, joins the latest series of affiliate interviews on Affiliate Grand Slam
Jon Wright's focus at StatsDrone Inc is to build tools that not only support big affiliates, but also smaller ones. His and his team's goal is that of building software and better tools for affiliates and in affiliate marketing - follow his story below.
When and why did you start considering affiliate business and affiliate marketing business as a career? Were you always focused on the Gaming space?
I have messed around with websites back in the early 2000s but I didn’t get serious about affiliate sites until 2010. I’ve more or less kept in the iGaming space for most of my career although I am transitioning to software development in affiliate marketing. The last sites I’ve worked on were Casino Bonuses Now, The Pogg, and Bet Blocker where the last one I’ve made the designs for the app.
What were your biggest challenges when first starting? What’s been your biggest nightmare to date?
At the start, designs and SEO were not working as expected so I know I made all the mistakes including strategy as well. It took more time than expected to make it work but that is part of learning and growing. Biggest nightmares to date have been dealing with problematic programmers. Getting good coders is not easy and requires some good HR to get that right.
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
I would have started out more niche. To this day, it is something I recommend to anybody starting out in any industry in affiliate marketing. Most people see the big sites and want to emulate them but in doing this, you are swimming up the river.
What helps make your performance successful? What are the main challenges?
In my case in particular it is design. This is what I enjoy doing and most of the time when I redesign something I’m able to see measurable improvements. The main challenges are delegating and making sure that I don’t do everything.
What motivates you to promote more, and what helps you boost your motivation?
For me that is innovation. After spending enough years in the iGaming affiliate space, I’ve learned what I like to work on and what I don’t enjoy working on. I personally think it is difficult to do anything innovative in the iGaming space and whether it is operators or affiliates, I just don’t see much in terms of innovation other than companies are getting bigger and bigger.
How is your company structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
At StatsDrone, we are a small software company without an office. As much as we were planning to have an office, COVID-19 has really made that a bit more pointless. We know we will always need remote workers whether in Canada or around the world so it doesn’t make sense to put any limitations in place. In iGaming we are used to moving fast and adapting.
Which markets are you eyeing up as a priority and why? Do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
Having been in the affiliate space for so long, we think we know what affiliates need and we think we see opportunities to build tools to support affiliates and make some changes in affiliate marketing in general. As much as there are emerging markets, our focus is on tools that not only support big affiliates, but in particular smaller ones as it seems more challenging for new affiliates to break into a space where mergers and acquisitions seems to be a normal activity. This is our goal at StatsDrone - to build better tools for affiliates and in affiliate marketing.
Which niches work best for your affiliate marketing, and which are the most profitable? How did you find your most profitable niche?
For us, our niche has been being in the B2B space in supporting affiliates.
What makes your traffic proposition/traffic sites unique?
In theory we have less competition in the space we are in but we have to do more than just that.
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? Have you considered going down the operator route?
We are considering bringing on investors at the moment as the ambition and potential scale of our software might lead us down that path. Over the years we have sold off our b2c sites and have been focusing solely on B2B.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
Defined roles, hard work, and open communication. Everyone does their business differently but it is easy to take a look at how other companies do it; and for the newbies on the outside looking in, look at the habits of successful companies.
What sets you apart from other affiliates?
I’m not sure I like much of these comparisons other than I’ve taken my time to learn what I like doing, what I’m good at, and what I don’t want to do. I know I enjoy the aspect of designing websites and interfaces but I don’t enjoy the day in day out tasks of being an affiliate which is why I wanted to pivot. That is why I decided to move away from being an affiliate to making software in affiliate marketing.
How important is social media activity for your affiliate business? How difficult is it with Google's constant updates?
In the B2B space, social media is becoming a critical marketing tool that I see all other companies utilising. When it comes to iGaming affiliates, unfortunately social media hasn’t been as friendly because it causes issues with compliance, and affiliates really have less logistical control over their social media. It is great when it works but we have all seen too many affiliates lose their Facebook pages and YouTube channels where affiliates seem to stop relying on these platforms. At the moment, we aren’t utilizing it much with StatsDrone as we have had programming setbacks and we are expecting to relaunch this November.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
It is almost everything we do aside from having design as being just as important.
Which emerging technologies like AI and big data will impact the affiliate industry in 2020 and beyond?
I think in the operator space, AI is already being used. That said, just looking at online casinos in particular, there are thousands of them operating, new ones opening daily; yet how many of them are worth promoting? How many of them will convert your affiliate traffic? It seems we still have a long way to go in this regard. We are working on AI tools where we think we can help affiliates do their job better and we expect to have more announcements in 2021.
How has the fragmentation of regulated markets affected your business? UKGC, Swedish regulator and now also the German regulator is mulling regulating this space.
For us, it is highlighting the need for everyone to be compliant and there doesn’t seem to be many systems or tools in place that helps solve this problem not just for affiliates but for operators.
How is the Asian market shaping-up for affiliates?
I’m sure it will be a big market as a whole but I think Asian markets will be possibly more complex than the regulated American markets.
How can affiliates be more unique in their approach?
I wish I had the best answer for this but I possibly don’t. Unique ideas should be encouraged but ask an affiliate manager how many times they’ve encountered a new affiliate that was so confident and arrogant about their new idea. Sometimes people have to learn the hard way and you can more or less apply this to everything outside of affiliate marketing.
What are your predictions for the future of the sector?
Unfortunately what I’m seeing already today seems to be shaping up to be the future and that is over regulation. I do believe there are people that have positions of power that get to make decisions on markets, like in affiliate marketing, where you wonder how these people came to their decisions. It is like they didn’t consult with other people in the industry. My hope is that as time goes by, when over regulation hurts a market, we can look at these as case studies and learn from them.
How do you manage relationships with multiple operators? What can operators do to increase support with affiliates?
As I mentioned how there were many poorly run online casinos, there are just as many poor affiliate managers. Operators really should be focusing on training their affiliate managers and doing a better job of hiring them. Operators also should be focusing on results beyond income, like what can they do to improve conversion rates with players. If you have an affiliate program that delivers good numbers in terms of KPIs then, in theory, your affiliate managers have an easier time doing their job.
Just ask any affiliate how bad affiliate managers can be. There are just too many of them with poor communication skills and I’ll end it with that as I could go on and on about this.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? SiGMA Europe, Africa, Asia, or Americas - which of these four expo shows would you likely book on your diary for 2021, COVID-19 permitting?
I love the SiGMA shows as going to Malta just feels like meeting up with one big family. My personal interests in shows aligns with places that I enjoy visiting over and over again, like Malta, along with going to new places on my wish list. So Manila, São Paulo, and Cape Town all sound like great places to visit for business.
Tell us a bit about yourself - after all, business is done with people, not just companies! Your hobbies, favourite book, favourite quote, whether you are into Gaming yourself, etc.
A collection of my hobbies includes travelling, boating, cooking, and martial arts. For travelling, I enjoy visiting big cities but I also like the complete opposite, i.e. going to isolated places where you get fresh air and get closer to nature. I like all kinds of boating but in particular I like to go houseboating many times per year and I have even created a website on this hobby called Canada Houseboating. I’m a big foodie and always enjoy learning to make new foods and expand my cooking skills which are already on point. I’m just getting back into martial arts after too many years away from it. That being Muay Thai kickboxing. I read a lot but go back and forth on practical books vs fiction. I hate most inspirational quotes. I’m not much into gaming myself other than I think it is important for people in iGaming to know their product.
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