M’thinks that Chris Trayhorn Knows Performance


A few years ago someone told me that someone was making a print magazine for the performance marketing industry. I was pretty damn sure it would fail. While blogs weren’t all the rage as they are now, as an experienced online publishers, I was pretty sure no one would want to read something in print. Luckily I was wrong, and the folks at Revenue Magazine, now Revenue Performance were correct. They understood that in our industry, people really love to get attention and putting great photos of them in a glossy magazine would guarantee distribution. Now some 8 years later, Revenue Performance is the magazine that every major company has on their coffee tables and frames in their offices. I decided to sit down with Chris Trayhorn, the Publisher of Revenue Performance and see what was going on over there.

Is this the Affiliate Industry, or the Performance Marketing Industry? Is there a reason to use one term over another?
Performance marketing. Of course. Let’s think big. Chief Marketing Officers have the shortest job lifespan in the C-suite. They’re desperate for a way to prove that they can make a difference. Performance marketing can do that for them – but they need to understand how, so education is key. Essentially, we have outgrown the term “affiliate marketing”. Performance marketing is where the action is.

What positive changes do you see happening in the next few years for the industry?
Huge growth, so long as we focus on getting the message out about what we do. I find it crazy that often when I talk to senior marketers at big multinational companies they have no clue about what can be achieved with performance marketing. As an industry, we need to be taking a message to those people that we offer a real solution to their problems.

There is a plethora of Affiliate and CPA Networks. What do you think about the increasingly low entry requirements for a network now? Is this a good or bad thing?
It’s good that the industry is dynamic and attracts new entrants, but it concerns me that so few have much of what I’d say was necessary experience and /or knowledge. How many new networks CEOs know what GRC is, for example? Governance, risk management and compliance is a recognized and integrated discipline in large enterprises but I don’t think I’ve ever even seen it discussed anywhere in the performance marketing space. If networks understood GRC better, we wouldn’t see nearly as many flameouts as we do. And that’s just one example.

We’ve had conversations about gurus in the industry, many of them who have become regular speakers at the Affiliate Conferences. What do you see as the biggest threat from the gurus to our industry?
To grow as an industry we need more publishers to build more audiences and generate more traffic. So we need quality training that new publishers can trust at a price they can afford. So-called gurus aren’t the answer because they tend to promote get-rich-quick approaches which ultimately fail for most students.

But it’s not just affiliates and publishers who need training. Advertisers and merchants need education too. Someone in the network space told me the other day, “I have lots of potential new advertisers. I just can’t train them fast enough.”

That’s nuts. Quality training is key to the growth of the industry. We need to be doing more. You’re going to see Revenue Performance taking the initiative in this area in the near future. Watch this space.

What do you think about the growing flame-wars, blogger attacks on people’s personal lives in the industry?
It sucks, but people are people. That means many of them behave badly some of the time. What are you gonna do?

Do you believe that the average person can still get into the industry, and why?
Sure, but they need to work their asses off and be smart about it. But online is still in its infancy. Mobile is just getting started. There’s lots of opportunity.

What is the biggest threat to the industry right now and why?
Personally, I’m keeping an eye on Google. I’m not the paranoid type but it sure looks to me like they’re moving towards a model where they try to direct all shopping traffic to their own properties. They’re scraping content off other publishers’ websites and then finding ways to present it so the user doesn’t need to visit the original site at all. They promote their own properties in preferred positions. They’ve just bought an affiliate site and are playing with other ways to present content and offers. They’re massive in mobile and have their own operating system. And they’re working hard to make it all work together. Other current concerns like fraud and nexus taxation will work themselves out but I’m not sure who can slow down Google.

What is your history in the Performance Marketing Industry?
My company spent 10 years working with Accenture helping them to grow their CRM practice from $1 billion to $20 billion a year. We also worked with Microsoft to help them launch Microsoft Advertising and publish their original online marketing research. Half way through that time I thought there was room for a magazine with a  trusted voice in the performance marketing industry. That’s how Revenue Performance got started. It was a big risk to launch a print magazine for an online community, but once we got the first edition out, people loved it.

Revenue Performance presents itself as a “professional” magazine in contrast to all the blogs. Why do you see the need of there being a print magazine?
We started publishing the magazine eight years ago – I think that longevity implies that it’s our readers who think we’re needed. There will always be a demand for content that advertisers and publishers feel they can trust in a format that they find useful.

Do you feel that we need an organization like the Performance Marketing Association, and why (or why not)?
I think it’s useful that we  have someone fighting the fight on Internet nexus taxes, but it’s a tough gig: trying to stop legislators bringing in new taxes when state tax incomes are at record lows. I wish them well.

What is your dream car?
It’s a dream motorbike: a KTM 950 Adventure. It’s a huge, black beast of a thing designed for fast back-road riding combined with some off-road stuff too. And it’s sitting in my garage.

If you weren’t involved in the industry, what would you be doing?
Something in online education. The internet gives us the first chance in history to provide everyone on the planet with education and opportunity. I think that’s important.

What's your opinion?