Marisa McCabe is the Director of Consumer Marketing for Keeper Security, a Chicago-based startup whose software protects business and personal passwords for thousands of businesses and millions of consumers.
Read on for a transcript of her presentation from our April 16, 2019 Here’s How Startup Marketing Conference, where she describes how she launched an affiliate marketing program that doubled Keeper's customer acquisition.
Hi everyone, my name is Marisa McCabe. I am the Director of Consumer Marketing for Keeper Security. Today I'm going to be talking to you about how we built an affiliate marketing program to maximize customer acquisition, but also how we doubled that revenue within our first year.
First, I'm going to start with a little bit about Keeper. We are a leading password management solution for both businesses and individuals with millions of customers worldwide.
We were first to market as a mobile app in 2011. Since then we have expanded to include BreachWatch which is dark web monitoring and KeeperChat, our secure messaging solution.
Our headquarters are here in Chicago. We also have offices in Cork, Ireland and El Dorado Hills, California with a total of 118 employees. However, that number is rapidly growing. I personally have been at Keeper for a year and a half. Prior to that, I was at Groupon and Cars.com.
Before we launched our affiliate program, we really needed to diversify our acquisition channels while minimizing our upfront out-of-pocket costs. Our existing efforts had a high CAC, and we wanted to lower that while growing brand awareness.
How many of you have an affiliate program? Alright. How many of you are trying to optimize your affiliate program? How many of you don't know what an affiliate program is? Great. For those of you with your hands up, that was me 18 months ago.
Everything that I'm going to go over is something that was really easy to do with low lift and had a huge impact on our bottom line.
So, what is affiliate marketing? Affiliate marketing is performance-based marketing. That means you're only paying for ads that work.
Businesses partner with publications to promote their product in exchange for a CPA. One of the major benefits is that it expands your reach through new customer bases you otherwise might not have exposure to. For us, this was a huge.
There are multiple affiliates out there that have review sites for password managers – top password manager review sites.
When it comes to password management, this is something that people really want to vet before they actually make that purchase because they're entrusting us with their passwords, with their life.
People keep their credit card information in there and access to their bank accounts and everything. They really want to make sure that they're choosing the right solution. Being featured in these articles was huge to us because this is a targeted group of individuals who are really wanting and in the market for a password manager.
1. Choose a network or build your own
The first thing you want to do is decide whether you want to join an existing network or create your own. We decided to join an existing network.
The reason we did that was because we had access to their database of publishers, and we were able to launch quickly and start earning revenue very fast.
2. Create product specific landing pages
The second thing you want to do is create product-specific landing pages. At Keeper, we have two products: we have our business products and our consumer products. And each are marketed in a very different and specific way.
We created two separate landing pages for our different efforts. On the left you see our business landing page and on the right is our consumer one, so we're really focusing on that different affiliate and who our target market is.
These pages are constantly being optimized. Once we launched, we set up a heat map to map the customer's journey and how they're interacting with the pages so that we're constantly optimizing to maximize our return.
3. Choose the right affiliates
The third step was choosing the right affiliates. During recruitment there are four types of affiliates that you can work with, either content driven, loyalty, discounts, or subnetworks.
Loyalty, that's like Ebates and Honey. those are websites that not only offer a discount but also provide cash back on purchases. Then there are your discount sites like RetailMeNot and Groupon, those sites promote promo codes.
Then lastly, subnetworks, that would be something like VigLinks. Those are companies that work with large or smaller database of affiliates that help promote your product.
The channel that we found to be the most successful for Keeper is content, and I'm going to show you an example. We worked with CNN Underscored, CNET, and PC Magazine to get us featured in these different articles that they have.
PC Magazine does a round-up of top password managers every single year. CNET does the same, and this was a really great way to leverage the power of influencers. This generates the most revenue for us and it's an easy way to reach readers who are highly qualified with high intent.
Based on our product, these publications were what made sense for our brand, but when you're doing this, you'll want to look at your brand and what makes sense for you.
4. Use promotions to drive acquisition
Next, you'll want to focus on promotions. What's the one thing consumers love the most? That would be discounts.
To maximize your conversions, offer strategic promotions that make sense for your brand and your price point. At Keeper, our baseline product cost $29.99 annually so we offer a 15 percent discount through our affiliate program.
During holidays and special events, this promotion might vary. For example, during Cyber Security Awareness Month, we worked with CNET to be featured in their newsletter where they sent out to all of their subscribers, focusing on Keeper and how we fell in with that theme.
Another example would be that earlier this month, Georgia Tech University discovered that they had a vulnerability that exposed the data of 1.5 million students and faculty. When this happened, I reached out to Student Beans, which is one of our affiliate partners that offer student discounts. We negotiated to get a feature for four days on their site, in their app, and through their newsletter.
5. Leverage higher CPAs with top performing publishers
The next thing is you'll want to optimize relationships that drive the most value. With each publisher you invite into your program or you accept, you can choose how you want to measure that success and what their payment will be. It'll always be driven by performance, but you define when and how.
The three main payouts are per click, per conversion, and per lead. When I first launched our program, we were very conservative and paid a very low CPA per conversion. We did this to test out the volume and value of each publisher.
As we determined which publishers drove the most value, we knew who we wanted to incentivize for additional exposure. Looking back at those examples I showed you earlier, the CNET and PC Magazine were articles that when we first launched, we weren't very high up on their list. But by offering them an additional CPA, we were able to move up toward the top.
Currently with CNET, we're ranked number one and with PC Mag, we're number two. Now, an example of sponsored posts would be our CNN article.
We worked with CNN and they reviewed us, and they wrote a very nice review of us. We had no input on it. This is completely their article and their thoughts on our product after they experienced it. But then through the program, we were able to get them to promote it on their site on the front page of CNN four days this month.
6. Build and maintain strong publisher relationships
The last thing you want to do is build and maintain strong publisher relationships. One thing I do is I have quarterly reviews with all of our publishers to discuss the performance and ways we can improve that and maybe optimize that relationship better.
Another thing we do is attend conferences. Each network, whether that's top networks are Rakuten, CJ, and Impact. We personally work with Rakuten, but each network hosts networking events where they bring in a lot of their publishers and a lot of their advertisers, and you can go to these events and have face time with a lot of the publishers that you want to talk to.
For example, Honey was a publisher that we'd been reaching out to for almost a year, but never got any feedback from them, no response. But at this conference we were able to sit down, talk to them, and now we have a great relationship with them.
It's important to continue networking, but also just be persistent. It's sometimes not easy to build relationships with these partners, but just be persistent and eventually it'll come.
Now for our results: I'm unable to share specific numbers with you, but what I can share is that we're on track to more than double the performance from last year. The first quarter of this year produced the same amount of revenue that we produced in the first three quarters of last year.
In conclusion, affiliate marketing is a very low-lift and cost-effective way to drive customer acquisition and bring in an incremental line of revenue.